Distribution pattern of picoplankton carbon biomass linked to mesoscale dynamics in the southern gulf of Mexico during winter conditions

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Abstract

In order to characterize the carbon biomass spatial distribution of autotrophic and heterotrophic picoplankton populations linked to mesoscale dynamics, an investigation over an extensive open-ocean region of the southern Gulf of Mexico (GM) was conducted. Seawater samples from the mixed layer were collected during wintertime (February-March 2013). Picoplankton populations were counted and sorted using flow cytometry analyses. Carbon biomass was assessed based on in situ cell abundances and conversion factors from the literature. Approximately 46% of the total picoplankton biomass was composed of three autotrophic populations (. Prochlorococcus, Synechococcus, and pico-eukaryotes), while 54% consisted of heterotrophic bacteria populations. Prochlorococcus spp. was the most abundant pico-primary producer (>80%), and accounted for more than 60% of the total pico-autotrophic biomass. The distribution patterns of picoplankton biomass were strongly associated with the mesoscale dynamics that modulated the hydrographic conditions of the surface mixed layer. The main features of the carbon distribution pattern were: (1) the deepening of picoplankton biomass to layers closer to the nitracline base in anticyclonic eddies; (2) the shoaling of picoplankton biomass in cyclonic eddies, constraining the autoprokaryote biomasses to the upper layers, as well as accumulating the pico-eukaryote biomass in the cold core of the eddies; and (3) the increase of heterotrophic bacteria biomass in frontal regions between counter-paired anticyclonic and cyclonic eddies. Factors related to nutrient preferences and light conditions may as well have contributed to the distribution pattern of the microbial populations. The findings reveal the great influence of the mesoscale dynamics on the distribution of picoplankton populations within the mixed layer. Moreover, the significance of microbial components (especially Prochlorococcus) in the southern GM during winter conditions was revealed, indicating that they may play an important role in the pelagic food web, and that they may have a substantial impact on the carbon cycle in oligotrophic regions.

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Linacre, L., Lara-Lara, R., Camacho-Ibar, V., Herguera, J. C., Bazán-Guzmán, C., & Ferreira-Bartrina, V. (2015). Distribution pattern of picoplankton carbon biomass linked to mesoscale dynamics in the southern gulf of Mexico during winter conditions. Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, 106, 55–67. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr.2015.09.009

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