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Quantifying photosynthetic rates of microphytobenthos using the triple isotope composition of dissolved oxygen

Rachel H. R. Stanley, Evan M. Howard

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 11:360-373 (2013) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2013.11.360

ABSTRACT: Microphytobenthos are important mediators of nutrient and carbon fluxes in coastal environments. However, quantifying production rates by microphytobenthos is difficult, and existing methods necessitate perhaps erroneous assumptions that dark respiration equals light respiration. Here we present a new method for quantifying photosynthetic rates of microphytobenthos, i.e., gross primary production, by using the triple isotope composition of dissolved oxygen in benthic flux chambers. Because the triple oxygen isotope signature is sensitive to photosynthesis, but not to respiration, this method allows quantification of gross photosynthetic oxygen fluxes by microphytobenthos without assumptions about respiration. We present results from field experiments in Waquoit Bay, Massachusetts, that illustrate the method.