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Effects of mixing-induced irradiance fluctuations on nitrogen uptake in size-fractionated coastal phytoplankton communities

Abstract : In coastal waters subjected to strong tidal forcing, phytoplankton populations are exposed to highly variable light regimes. To grow under such fluctuating light environments, phytoplankton adjust their physiological properties. Here, we investigated nitrogen (N) uptake patterns in the western English Channel to determine whether phytoplankton modify their physiological processes involved in N uptake in response to changing irradiance conditions induced by spring-neap tidal cycles. Nitrate (NO3 -) and ammonium (NH4 +) uptake kinetics as a function of irradiance (VN-E curves) were assessed using 15N tracer techniques on two size fractions (<10 and > 10μm) of phytoplankton collected at 50% and 1% of surface irradiance during two spring-neap tidal cycles. Overall, the results showed that both small and large phytoplankton, whatever their vertical position in the water column, increased their maximum uptake capacity and their light utilization efficiency for the two N substrates following the decrease in vertical mixing intensity. Moreover, the improvement of irradiance conditions at neap tides was of greater benefit for the larger cells than for the smaller ones and was more favorable for NO3 - uptake than for NH4 + uptake. These findings show that the light regime fluctuation resulting from the relaxation of tidal mixing during spring-neap tidal cycle leads to profound physiological adjustments of N uptake processes in phytoplankton communities. They suggest that the changes in NO3 - uptake by large phytoplankton associated with the fortnightly spring-neap tidal cycle can account for most of the deviation in background productivity in the western English Channel which is based on NH4 + and is dominated by small cells. The dynamic light regime inherent to macrotidal coastal ecosystems could therefore determine, to a large extent, the importance of new vs. regenerated production as well as the size structure of the phytoplankton community.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, January 13, 2015 - 4:05:51 PM
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Jean-François Maguer, Stéphane L'Helguen, Matthieu Waeles. Effects of mixing-induced irradiance fluctuations on nitrogen uptake in size-fractionated coastal phytoplankton communities. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 2015, 154, pp.1-11. ⟨10.1016/j.ecss.2014.12.008⟩. ⟨hal-01102866⟩



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