Effect of nutrient supply on the biomass structure of planktonic communities: An experimental test on a Mediterranean coastal community

Carlos Duarte*, Susana Agusti, J. M. Gasol, D. Vaque, E. Vazquez-Dominguez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations

Abstract

The hypothesis that increasing nutrient supply increases the biomass of autotrophs proportionately more than the biomass of heterotrophs was tested by increasing (0, 1-, 2-, 4-, 8-, and 16-fold over the background loading of 5 mmol N m-2 d-1, 1.6 mmol Si m-2 d-1, and 0.25 mmol P m-2 d-1) the addition of nutrients to large (33 000 l) mesocosm units enclosing an oligotrophic coastal Mediterranean planktonic community. Autotrophic plankton biomass increased 50-fold along the range of nutrient inputs, whereas heterotrophic biomass increased only 10-fold. Heterotrophic biomass increased as the 1/5 power of the increase in the biomass of autotrophs, implying that the ratio of heterotroph to autotroph biomass (HB/AB ratio) declined rapidly as the biomass of autotrophs increases with increasing nutrient inputs. The biomass distribution within the community shifted from an 'inverted pyramid' distribution, involving greater biomass of heterotrophs than that of autotrophs, at low nutrient inputs, to the conventional 'upward' pyramid pattern, where the biomass of autotrophs exceeds that of consumers, at the highest nutrient inputs. This shift stabilized after 4 d, and the pyramids remained quite constant for the rest of the experiment. The experimental test presented supports the hypothesis that the relative biomass distribution between heterotrophs and autotrophs is regulated by nutrient supply.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-95
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Volume206
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 3 2000

Keywords

  • Autotrophs
  • Biomass distribution
  • Heterotrophs
  • Mediterranean
  • Mesocosm
  • Nutrient inputs
  • Plankton

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology

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