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Free Content The dynamic changes of stable isotopic ratios of carbon and nitrogen in suspended and sedimented particulate organic matter during a phytoplankton bloom

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Abstract:

The dynamic changes of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopic ratios in suspended and sedimented particulate matter were observed together with many other chemical and biological properties during a phytoplankton bloom induced by nutrient addition in a controlled ecosystem enclosure (CEE, about 70 m3) in Saanich Inlet, British Columbia, Canada.

Both of the stable isotopic ratios of carbon (13C) and nitrogen (15N) in suspended particulate organic matter showed characteristic patterns of variations in surface water during the bloom. The 13C of suspended particulate matter increased with the growth of phytoplankton population and decreased gradually after the depletion of NO3 and NO2. The 15N of suspended particulate matter was very low soon after the beginning of phytoplankton bloom, but the value increased rapidly with the decrease in NO3 and NO2, and reached maximal value following nutrient depletion, after which the 15N remained high until the end of the experiment.

In order to understand such variations of 13C and 15N, we made the mass and isotopic balance models of carbon and nitrogen for the upper layer of the CEE, and simulated the temporal variations of 13C and 15N of particulate organic matter using them in connection with several hypotheses on the isotope fractionations associated with the uptake of inorganic substrates by phytoplankton. While neither change in the dissolved inorganic carbon (i.e., its isotope ratio and/or molecular CO2 concentration) nor the phytoplankton species compositions can well explain the variation of 13C, this variation can be well simulated considering the effect of change in the specific production rate of particulate organic carbon. On the other hand, the variations of 15N can be clearly understood by a first-order isotope fractionation model under the assumption of large isotopic fractionation during the assimilation of NO3 and NO2 by phytoplankton.

The particulate organic matter produced in the nutrient controlled phytoplankton bloom can be classified into three phases from an isotopic viewpoint: (I) the early stage of the phytoplankton bloom when NO3 plus NO2 were still in excess in sea water (high 13C but low 15N), (II) the late stage of the bloom when NO3 plus NO2 had just been depicted (high 13C and high 15N) and (III) the steady state phase, a few days after the depletion of NO3 plus NO2 (low 13C but high 15N). The cooperative variation of 13C and 15N in the suspended and sedimented particulate organic matter was also demonstrated.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1357/002224092784797692

Publication date: 1992-05-01

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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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