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Title: Nutrient limitation of marine phytoplankton
Author: Browning, Thomas John
ISNI:       0000 0004 5361 3986
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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Phytoplankton across the majority of the world’s oceans are thought to be limited by the availability of either nitrate or iron (Fe). However, the spatial resolution of experiments confirming this is low. Two thesis chapters present the results of bottle enrichment experiments at high spatial resolution across (i) the South Subtropical Convergence (SSTC) in the South Atlantic, and (ii) the Scotia Sea-Drake Passage sector of the Southern Ocean. These studies have added detail to the boundaries of limiting nutrients in these regions. Patterns of Fast Repetition Rate fluorometry (FRRf) derived parameters, physiological regulation of these parameters including influences of community structure, and the environmental controls driving them are analysed. Given its role as an essential micronutrient, there has been much effort in constraining potential sources of bioavailable Fe to the ocean, with one such source receiving recent interest: erupted ash from volcanoes. Bottle-scale ash-incubation experiments alongside conventional iron additions and laboratory ash-leaching experiments were conducted, the results of which suggest phytoplankton would respond strongly to ash deposition in the High Nitrate, Low Chlorophyll (HNLC) areas of the Southern Ocean. Particularly notable was the evidence these experiments provided for potential (co-)limitation of phytoplankton in these waters by the micronutrient manganese. The first three chapters of this thesis highlight a number of biogeochemical implications of trace metal stress, particularly that of Fe stress. Therefore, the ability to map the oceanographic extent of Fe-stressed regions using remote sensing would represent a particularly useful advance in marine biogeochemistry. Theoretically it could be possible to map Fe stress from space using satellite images of chlorophyll fluorescence, yet there are important uncertainties that need to be addressed before this can be carried out. In particular, a better understanding of the midday non-photochemical quenching driven reductions in chlorophyll fluorescence occurring at the time satellite images are captured is required. Analysis of over 200 non-photochemical quenching experiments collected over three research cruises, has allowed us to explore non-photochemical quenching and its relevance for using sunlight induced chlorophyll fluorescence to assess broad patterns of Fe stress. Our results have confirmed that satellite fluorescence quantum yields have the potential to reveal broad regions of Fe stress, however a dynamic non-photochemical quenching correction derived from our experiments and analysis was necessary to achieve this.
Supervisor: Bouman, Heather; Henderson, Gideon; Moore, Mark Sponsor: Natural Environmental Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Geochemistry ; Phytoplankton ; Biogeochemistry ; Physiology ; nutrients