Differential response of microbial plankton to nutrient inputs in oligotrophic versus mesotrophic waters of the North Atlantic

Sandra Martínez-García*, Emilio Fernández, Alejandra Calvo-Díaz, Pedro Cermeño, Emilio Marañón, Xose Anxelu G. Moran, Eva Teira

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The effects of inorganic and/or organic (glucose+AAs) inputs on phytoplankton and heterotrophic bacteria were assessed, using a microcosm approach, in two contrasting marine environments: an open ocean oligotrophic site (North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre) and a highly productive coastal embayment (Ría de Vigo, NW Spain). Overall, changes in microbial plankton biomass were smaller than those of metabolic rates. The largest increases in primary production, bacterial production and community respiration were measured in response to mixed () nutrient additions in both sites. Primary production responded to additions only in oligotrophic waters. The distinct autotrophic responses to nutrient additions measured in these environments were related to the different initial composition of phytoplankton populations and, presumably, also to differences in grazing pressures in both marine ecosystems. Heterotrophic bacteria were limited by organic substrates in both ecosystems, although mixed additions further enhanced bacterial growth in the subtropical gyre. The differences detected in bacterial responses to nutrient additions may be related to differences in nutrient limitations and to the prevalence of different relationships between components of the microbial food web (e.g. coupling between heterotrophic bacteria and phytoplankton and predation pressure) in both environments. We found a more relevant role of inorganic nutrients in controlling the efficiency of bacterial growth in oligotrophic regions as compared with highly productive systems. Our results suggest that organic matter inputs into both ecosystems might result in a tendency towards heterotrophy and in increases in bacterial growth efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-370
Number of pages13
JournalMarine Biology Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2013


  • Microbial plankton
  • bacteria
  • microcosms
  • nutrients inputs
  • organic nitrogen
  • phytoplankton

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Differential response of microbial plankton to nutrient inputs in oligotrophic versus mesotrophic waters of the North Atlantic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this