Viability of pico- and nanophytoplankton in the Baltic Sea during spring
Authors: Vanharanta, M., Elovaara, S., Franklin, D.J., Spilling, K. and Tamelander, T.
Journal: Aquatic Ecology
Phytoplankton cell death is an important process in marine food webs, but the viability of natural phytoplankton communities remains unexplored in many ecosystems. In this study, we measured the viability of natural pico- and nanophytoplankton communities in the central and southern parts of the Baltic Sea (55°21′ N, 17°06′ E–60°18′ N, 19°14′ E) during spring (4th–15th April 2016) to assess differences among phytoplankton groups and the potential relationship between cell death and temperature, and inorganic nutrient availability. Cell viability was determined by SYTOX Green cell staining and flow cytometry at a total of 27 stations representing differing hydrographic regimes. Three general groups of phytoplankton (picocyanobacteria, picoeukaryotes, and nanophytoplankton) were identified by cytometry using pigment fluorescence and light scatter characteristics. The picocyanobacteria and picoeukaryotes had significantly higher cell viability than the nanophytoplankton population at all depths throughout the study area. Viability correlated positively with the photosynthetic efficiency (Fv/Fm, maximum quantum yield of photosystem II) as measured on the total phytoplankton community. However, an anticipated correlation with dissolved organic carbon was not observed. We found that the abiotic factors suggested to affect phytoplankton viability in other marine ecosystems were not as important in the Baltic Sea, and other biotic processes, e.g. processes related to species succession could have a more pronounced role.