Vertical distribution of phytoplankton biomass, production and growth in the Atlantic subtropical gyres

Valesca Pérez*, Emilio Fernández, Emilio Marañón, Xosé Anxelu G. Morán, Mike V. Zubkov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Ninety-four stations were sampled in the Atlantic subtropical gyres during 10 cruises carried out between 1995 and 2001, mainly in boreal spring and autumn. Chlorophyll a (Chl-a) and primary production were measured during all cruises, and phytoplankton biomass was estimated in part of them. Picoplankton (<2 μm) represented >60% of total Chl-a concentration measured at the surface, and their contribution to this variable increased with depth. Phytoplankton carbon concentrations were higher in the upper metres of the water column, whereas Chl-a showed a deep maximum (DCM). At each station, the water column was divided into the upper mixed layer (ML) and the DCM layer (DCML). The boundary between the two layers was calculated as the depth where Chl-a concentration was 50% of the maximum Chl-a concentration. On average DCML extends from 67 to 126 m depth. Carbon to Chl-a (C:Chl-a) ratios were used to estimate phytoplankton carbon content from Chl-a in order to obtain a large phytoplankton carbon dataset. Total C:Chl-a ratios averaged (±s.e.) 103±7 (n=22) in the ML and 24±4 (n=12) in the DCML and were higher in larger cells than in picoplankton. Using these ratios and primary production measurements, we derived mean specific growth rates of 0.17±0.01 d-1 (n=173) in the ML and 0.20±0.01 d-1 (n=165) in the DCML although the differences were not significant (t-test, p>0.05). Our results suggest a moderate contribution of the DCML (43%) to both phytoplankton biomass and primary production in the Atlantic subtropical gyres.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1616-1634
Number of pages19
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • AMT
  • Atlantic subtropical gyres
  • Biomass
  • Growth
  • Phytoplankton
  • Primary production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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