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Nutrient gradients in the western North Atlantic Ocean: Relationship to microbial community structure and comparison to patterns in the Pacific Ocean

Nutrient gradients in the western North Atlantic Ocean: Relationship to microbial community structure and comparison to patterns in the Pacific Ocean,

Nutrient gradients in the western North Atlantic Ocean: Relationship to microbial community structure and comparison to patterns in the Pacific Ocean   (Citations: 54)
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Studies of nitrogen and phosphorus dynamics in the oligotrophic surface waters of the western North Atlantic Ocean have been constrained because ambient concentrations are typically at or below the detection limits of standard colorometric methods, except during periods of deep vertical mixing. Here we report the application of high-sensitivity analytical methods—determinations of nitrate plus nitrite (N+N) by chemiluminescence and soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) by the magnesium induced co-precipitation (MAGIC) protocol—to surface waters along a transect from the Sargasso Sea at 26°N through the Gulf Stream at 37°N, including sampling at the JGOFS Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) station. The results were compared with data from the BATS program, and the HOT station in the Pacific Ocean, permitting cross-ecosystem comparisons. Microbial populations were analyzed along the transect, and an attempt was made to interpret their distributions in the context of the measured nutrient concentrations.Surface concentrations of N+N and SRP during the March 1998 transect separated into 3 distinct regions, with the boundaries corresponding roughly to the locations of the BATS station (∼31°N) and the Gulf Stream (∼37°N). Although N+N and SRP co-varied, the [N+N]:[SRP] molar ratios increased systematically from ∼1 to 10 in the southern segment, remained relatively constant at ∼40–50 between 31°N and 37°N, then decreased again systematically to ratios <10 north of the Gulf Stream. Dissolved organic N (DON) and P (DOP) dominated (⩾90%) the total dissolved N (TDN) and P (TDP) pools except in the northern portion of the transect. The [DON]:[DOP] molar ratios were relatively invariant (∼30–60) across the entire transect.Heterotrophic prokaryotes (operationally defined as “bacteria”), Prochlorococcus, Synechococcus, ultra- and nanophytoplankton, cryptophytes, and coccolithophores were enumerated by flow cytometry. The abundance of bacteria was well correlated with the concentration of SRP, and that of the ultra- and nanophytoplankton was well correlated with the concentration of N+N. The only group whose concentration was correlated with temperature was Prochlorococcus, and its abundance was unrelated to the concentrations of nutrients measured at the surface.We combined our transect results with time-series measurements from the BATS site and data from select depth profiles, and contrasted these North Atlantic data sets with time-series of N and P nutrient measurements from a station in the North Pacific subtropical gyre near Hawaii [Hawaii Ocean Time-series (HOT) site]. Two prominent differences are readily observed from this comparison. The [N+N]:[SRP] molar ratios are much less than 16:1 during stratified periods in surface waters at the BATS site, as is the case at the HOT site year round. However, following deep winter mixing, this ratio is much higher than 16:1 at BATS. Also, SRP concentrations in the upper 100m at BATS fall in the range 1–10nM during stratified periods, which is at least one order of magnitude lower than at the HOT site. That two ecosystems with comparable rates of primary and export production would differ so dramatically in their nutrient dynamics is intriguing, and highlights the need for detailed cross ecosystem comparisons.
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