Scientia Marina, Vol 62, No 1-2 (1998)

Theoretical limits of oxygen:carbon and oxygen:nitrogen ratios during photosynthesis and mineralisation of organic matter in the sea

F. Fraga
Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas (CSIC), Spain

A. F. Ríos
Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas (CSIC), Spain

F. F. Pérez
Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas (CSIC), Spain

F. G. Figueiras
Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas (CSIC), Spain


It is frequent to observe disagreements between the relationships RC =-ΔO2/ΔC and RN = -ΔO2/ΔN found during photosynthesis-mineralisation studies in the ocean and those expected according to the Redfield plankton composition. That is because RC and RN depend on the C/N and Carbohydrates/Lipids (Cbh/Lip) ratios of the organic matter. Starting from the mean biochemical composition of the main groups of phytoplankton biomolecules and from the stoichiometry of photosynthesis-mineralisation, we establish a new formulation to enable us to calculate RC and RN as a function of C/N and Cbh/Lip ratios independent of the variance in the N/P ratio. The approach proposed here permits the theoretical limits of RC and RN to be calculated. The RC value can vary between 1 and 1.58 while RN can vary between 5.8 and infinity with the interrelationships between the ratios being defined by RN/RC=C/N which, in its turn, can vary between 3.67 and infinity. For a given RC the limits of RN become narrower and vice versa. When C/N ratio is fixed the limits of the RC and RN values also become narrower. A graphic representation to check and visualise these limits and other experimental biochemical composition values is developed. According to the average value of the Cbh/Lip relationship, 0.82 in carbon, recovered from the literature and for a C/N = 106/16, the estimate mean RC and RN values are 1.41 and 9.33 respectively which are coincident with previous ratios given by other authors.

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Copyright (c) 1998 Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)

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