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Dissolved organic phosphorus uptake by marine phytoplankton is enhanced by the presence of dissolved organic nitrogen

TitleDissolved organic phosphorus uptake by marine phytoplankton is enhanced by the presence of dissolved organic nitrogen
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsFitzsimons MF, Probert I, Gaillard F, Rees AP
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Date Publishedsep
KeywordsAlkaline phosphatase, COASTAL WATERS, Dissolved organic nitrogen, Dissolved organic phosphorus, Marine algae, P-limitation, RC2563, RCC2565

Organic nutrients can constitute the major fractions (up to 70%) of aquatic nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), but their cycling is poorly understood relative to the inorganic pools. Some phytoplankton species access P from the dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP) pool through expression of alkaline phosphatase (AP), which hydrolyses orthophosphate from organic molecules, and is thought to occur either at low concentrations of dissolved inorganic P (DIP), or elevated ratios of dissolved inorganic N (DIN) to DIP. Three algal strains native to the North-East Atlantic Ocean (coccolithophore, dinoflagellate and diatom species) were grown under representative, temperate conditions, and the dissolved N and P components amended to include dissolved organic N (DON) and DOP. The activity of AP was measured to determine the rate of DOP uptake by each algal species. The addition of DON and DOP enhanced the growth of the algal species, regardless of DIN and DIP concentrations. In cultures where the total concentrations and absolute N: P ratio was unchanged but the N pool included both DON and DIN, an increase in alkaline phosphatase activity (APA) was measured. This suggested that the presence of DON triggered the selective uptake of DOP. The uptake of organic P was confirmed by detection of adenosine in DOP-amended culture media, indicating that P had been cleaved from ADP and ATP added to the media as DOP, and cellular P concentration in these cultures exceeded the calculated concentration based on uptake of DIP only. Our data demonstrates that organic nutrients can enhance and sustain marine algal productivity. The findings have implications for marine ecosystem function and health, since climate change scenarios predict variable riverine inputs to coastal areas, altered N: P ratios, and changes in the inorganic to organic balance of the nutrient pools.