Growth physiology and fate of diatoms in the ocean: a review - Université de Bretagne Occidentale Access content directly
Journal Articles Journal of Sea Research (JSR) Year : 2004

Growth physiology and fate of diatoms in the ocean: a review


Diatoms are a major component of phytoplankton community. They tend to dominate under natural high-nutrient concentrations, as well as during artificial Fe fertilisation experiments. They are main players in the biogeochemical cycle of carbon (C), as they can account for 40% of the total primary production in the Ocean and dominate export production, as well as in the biogeochemical cycles of the other macro-nutrients, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and silicon (Si). Another important nutrient is Fe, which was shown to have a direct or indirect effect on nearly all the biogeochemical parameters of diatoms. In the present paper, an inventory is made of the growth, physiology and fate of many diatom species, including maximum growth rate, photosynthetic parameters (maximum specific rate of photosynthesis, photosynthetic efficiency and light adaptation parameter), nutrient limitation (half-saturation constant for growth/uptake), cellular elemental ratios, and loss terms (sinking rates, autolysis rates and grazing rates). This is a first step for improvement of the parameterisation of physiologically based phytoplankton growth and global 3D carbon models. This review is a synthesis of a large number of published laboratory experiments using monospecific cultures as well as field data. Our compilation confirms that size is an important factor explaining variations of biogeochemical parameters of diatoms (e.g. maximum growth rate, photosynthesis parameters, half-saturation constants, sinking rate, and grazing). Some variations of elemental ratios can be explained by adaptation of intracellular requirements or storage of Fe, and P, for instance. The important loss processes of diatoms pointed out by this synthesis are (i) sinking, as single cells as well as through aggregation which generally greatly increases sinking rate, (ii) cell autolysis, which can significantly reduce net growth rates, especially under nutrient limitation when gross growth rates are low, and (iii) grazing by both meso- and micro-zooplankton. This review also defines gaps concerning our knowledge on some important points. For example, we need to better know which iron species is available for phytoplankton, as well as the impact of Fe on the variation of the elemental ratios, especially in terms of assimilation and regeneration of C and N. A better quantification of prey selection by microzooplankton and mesozooplankton in natural environments is also needed, including preference for the various phytoplankton and zooplankton species as well as for aggregates and faecal pellets.

Dates and versions

hal-00456424 , version 1 (15-02-2010)



Géraldine Sarthou, K.R. Timmermans, Stéphane Blain, Paul Tréguer. Growth physiology and fate of diatoms in the ocean: a review. Journal of Sea Research (JSR), 2004, 53 (1-2), pp.25-42. ⟨10.1016/j.seares.2004.01.007⟩. ⟨hal-00456424⟩
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