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Free Content Maximal quantum yield of photosynthesis in the northwestern Sargasso Sea

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The magnitude and variability of the maximal quantum yield of photosynthesis were examined in the northwestern Sargasso Sea in April 1985. Maximal quantum yield was calculated from light-limited photosynthetic rates and spectrally-weighted absorption coefficients. The absorption by total particulates collected on a glass fiber filter was partitioned into two components, one associated with living phytoplankton and one associated with other absorbing particles. Two types of maximal quantum yield were calculated: one from the absorption by total particulates and one from the absorption by the phytoplanktonic component alone. Maximal quantum yield calculated from absorption by total particulates was low [0.014 to 0.071 mol C (mol photons)–1] and decreased as the proportion of absorption due to the non phytoplanktonic particles increased. The phytoplanktonic maximal quantum yield was higher [0.033 to 0.102 mol C (mol photons)–1] and varied by a factor of two over a period of two weeks during and following a spring bloom. Use of the phytoplanktonic component of absorption to calculate maximal quantum yield allowed analysis of changes in maximal quantum yield as a function of changes in phytoplankton physiology rather than changes in the amount of absorption by particulate detritus. The pattern of variation in quantum yield was related to nitrogen flux; these data suggest that maximal quantum yield can be predicted from environmental conditions on a regional or seasonal basis.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 1989

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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