Increase in Dominance of Eukaryote Over Prokaryote Phytoplankton Biomass Between the Surface and the Deep Chlorophyll Maximum in the Summertime Western North Atlantic Ocean

Robert D Vaillancourt, Millersville University of Pennsylvania, Millersville, PA, United States, Veronica P Lance, NOAA/NESDIS/STAR, College Park, MD, United States, Bruce R Hargreaves, Lehigh University, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Bethlehem, PA, United States and John F Marra, CUNY Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY, United States
We report a general increase in the dominance of eukaryotes phytoplankton between the surface and the deep chlorophyll maximum (DCM) depths in the western North Atlantic Ocean along a transect between Bermuda (BATS) and the New England continental shelf sea during the summer 2007 & 2008. At each of 40 stations HPLC pigment concentrations were determined from 6 -10 depths from the surface to near or below the base of the euphotic zone. The community composition was determined using CHEMTAX (Mackey et al. 1996) using marker pigment ratios for varying light regimes published in Higgins et al (2011) and from our own monocultures. Cluster analysis was used to partition the dataset into five distinct regional groups to reduce the pigment ratio variability in CHEMTAX runs. Within each regional group the data were again clustered depth-wise into five to seven overlapping optical depth (OD) bins, and each OD bin was analyzed using a pigment ratio matrix ideal for that light depth range. This analysis revealed the likely presence of nine pigment classes: pelagophytes, diatoms, dinoflagellates, Synechococcus sp., Prochlorococcs sp., cryptophytes, chlorophytes, prasinophytes, and haptophytes. Partial verification of CHEMTAX results was obtained using flow cytometry cell counts coincident with samples from the BATS stations that show reasonable (according to published values) Chl a/cell values for surface and deep populations. At most locations and depths, the eukaryote haptophyte group dominated the phytoplankton biomass. In the upper optical depth the proportion of phytoplankton biomass contributed by prokaryotes was 39 (± 23)%. Deeper, between OD 1 and 2, this proportion decreased to 33 (± 17)%, between ODs 2 and 4.6 to 25 (± 15)%, and below OD 4.6, to 21 (± 17)%. Some geographic variation was observed, with the trend most pronounced in oligotrophic ocean waters and weaker in continental shelf waters.