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Open Access Publications from the University of California

In Situ Diazotroph Population Dynamics Under Different Resource Ratios in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.

  • Author(s): Turk-Kubo, Kendra A
  • Connell, Paige
  • Caron, David
  • Hogan, Mary E
  • Farnelid, Hanna M
  • Zehr, Jonathan P
  • et al.

Major advances in understanding the diversity, distribution, and activity of marine N2-fixing microorganisms (diazotrophs) have been made in the past decades, however, large gaps in knowledge remain about the environmental controls on growth and mortality rates. In order to measure diazotroph net growth rates and microzooplankton grazing rates on diazotrophs, nutrient perturbation experiments and dilution grazing experiments were conducted using free-floating in situ incubation arrays in the vicinity of Station ALOHA in March 2016. Net growth rates for targeted diazotroph taxa as well as Prochlorococcus, Synechococcus and photosynthetic picoeukaryotes were determined under high (H) and low (L) nitrate:phosphate (NP) ratio conditions at four depths in the photic zone (25, 45, 75, and 100 m) using quantitative PCR and flow cytometry. Changes in the prokaryote community composition in response to HNP and LNP treatments were characterized using 16S rRNA variable region tag sequencing. Microzooplankton grazing rates on diazotrophs were measured using a modified dilution technique at two depths in the photic zone (15 and 125 m). Net growth rates for most of the targeted diazotrophs after 48 h were not stimulated as expected by LNP conditions, rather enhanced growth rates were often measured in HNP treatments. Interestingly, net growth rates of the uncultivated prymnesiophyte symbiont UCYN-A1 were stimulated in HNP treatments at 75 and 100 m, suggesting that N used for growth was acquired through continuing to fix N2 in the presence of nitrate. Net growth rates for UCYN-A1, UCYN-C, Crocosphaera sp. (UCYN-B) and the diatom symbiont Richelia (associated with Rhizosolenia) were uniformly high at 45 m (up to 1.6 ± 0.5 d-1), implying that all were growing optimally at the onset of the experiment at that depth. Differences in microzooplankton grazing rates on UCYN-A1 and UCYN-C in 15 m waters indicate that the grazer assemblage preyed preferentially on UCYN-A1. Deeper in the water column (125 m), both diazotrophs were grazed at substantial rates, suggesting grazing pressure may increase with depth in the photic zone. Constraining in situ diazotroph growth and mortality rates are important steps for improving parameterization for diazotrophs in global ecosystem models.

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