Phytoplankton growth, microzooplankton grazing, and carbon cycling in marine systems

Calbet, Albert, Michael R. Landry

Limnol. Oceanogr., 49(1), 2004, 51-57 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2004.49.1.0051

ABSTRACT: We present an analysis of the global impact of microplanktonic grazers on marine phytoplankton and its implications for remineralization processes in the microbial community. The data were obtained by an extensive literature search that yielded 788 paired rate estimates of autotrophic growth (µ) and microzooplankton grazing (m) from dilution experiments. From studies in which phytoplankton standing stock was measured in terms of carbon equivalents, we show that the production estimate from dilution experiments is a reasonable proxy (r = 0.89) for production determined by the standard 14C method. The ratio m: µ, the proportion of primary production (PP) consumed by micrograzers, shows that microzooplankton consumption is the main source of phytoplankton mortality in the oceans, accounting for 67% of phytoplankton daily growth for the full data set. This ratio varies modestly among various marine habitats and regions, with data averages ranging from 60% for coastal and estuarine environments to 70% for the open oceans, and from ~59% for temperate-subpolar and polar systems to 75% for tropical-subtropical regions. Given estimates for the metabolic requirements of micrograzers and assuming they consume most bacterial production, regionally averaged estimates of the protistan respiration are 35-43% of daily PP for the first level of consumer or 49-59% of PP for three trophic transfers. The estimated contributions of microbial grazers to total community respiration are of the same magnitude as bacterial respiration. Consequently, potential ecosystem differences in micrograzer activity or trophic structure are a large uncertainty for biogeochemical models that seek to predict the microbial community role in carbon cycling from bacterial parameters alone.

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