Scientia Marina, Vol 65, No S2 (2001)

Phytoplanktonic biomass synthesis: application to deviations from Redfield stoichiometry

Fernando Fraga
Instituto de Ivestigaciones Marinas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Spain


During biomass formation as a result of phytoplankton photosynthesis, CO2 and the nutrients NO3 and PO4 are consumed and O2 produced in fixed proportions known as the Redfield ratio. Broecker’s tracers, i.e., “NO” = O2+RN·NO3, “PO” =O2+RP·PO4, and “CO” = O2+RC·CO2, remain constant during photosynthesis, because nutrients consumed are offset by O2 formation. When one or several nutrients become depleted, the Redfield ratio no longer holds, and the tracers cease to remain constant. The main causes are formation of excess carbohydrates or lipids, N2 fixation, or production of CaCO3 plates by phytoplanktonic populations that have developed different strategies for obtaining the nutrients they need. This paper presents new tracers that remain constant, irrespective of whether or not Redfield stoichiometry is satisfied. Differences between the values of the new tracers and the values of the conventional tracers reveal the presence of anomalies in biomass production. They also allow quantification of any such anomalies, both globally and by depth stratum, and assessment of each individual anomaly separately, even when more than one anomaly occur simultaneously.


Redfield deviations; phytoplankton stoichiometry; dinoflagellates; coccolithophores; cyanobacteria

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Copyright (c) 2001 Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)

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