Temperature affects the size-structure of phytoplankton communities in the ocean

Ángel López-Urrutia, Xose Anxelu G. Moran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The strong inverse correlation between resource availability and temperature in the ocean poses a challenge to determine the relative effect of these two variables on the size-structure of natural phytoplankton communities. Maranon et al (2012) compiled a dataset of concurrent temperature and resource level proxies that they claim disentangled the effect of temperature from that of resource supply. They concluded that the hypothesis that temperature per se plays a direct role in controlling phytoplankton size structure should be rejected. But our reanalysis of their data reaches a very different conclusion and suggests that they failed to separate the effects of temperature from the effects of resources. Although we obviously concur with Maranon et al (2012) in the long-known predominance of small phytoplankton cells under oligotrophic conditions, from our point of view this should not deter us from considering temperature as an important explanatory variable at a global scale since we show that, for the vast oligotrophic areas of the world's oceans where chlorophyll concentrations are below
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)733-738
Number of pages6
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 5 2015


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