Phytoplankton succession explains size-partitioning of new production following upwelling-induced blooms

N. Van Oostende, J. P. Dunne, S. E. Fawcett, Bettie Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Large and chain-forming diatoms typically dominate the phytoplankton biomass after initiation of coastal upwelling. The ability of these diatoms to accelerate and maintain elevated nitrate uptake rates has been proposed to explain the dominance of diatoms over all other phytoplankton groups. Moreover, the observed delay in biomass accumulation following nitrate supply after initiation of upwelling events has been hypothesised to result from changes in the diatom community structure or from physiological acclimation. To investigate these mechanisms, we used both numerical modelling and experimental incubations that reproduced the characteristic succession from small to large species in phytoplankton community composition and size structure. Using the Tracers Of Phytoplankton with Allometric Zooplankton (TOPAZ) ecosystem model as a framework, we find that variations in functional group-specific traits must be taken into account, through adjustments of group-dependent maximum production rates (PCmax, s-1), in order to accurately reproduce the observed patterns and timescales of size-partitioned new production in a non-steady state environment. Representation of neither nutrient acclimation, nor diatom diversity in the model was necessary as long as lower than theoretical maximum production rates were implemented. We conclude that this physiological feature, PCmax, is critical in representing the early, relatively higher specific nitrate uptake rate of large diatoms, and explains the differential success of small and large phytoplankton communities in response to nitrate supply during upwelling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-25
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Marine Systems
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • Biogeochemical model
  • Cell size
  • Coastal upwelling
  • Community succession
  • New production
  • Nitrate uptake
  • Phytoplankton


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