Marine Biology

, Volume 117, Issue 1, pp 163–170

Relationships between nucleic acid concentrations and primary production in the Catalan Sea (Northwestern Mediterranean)


  • E. Berdalet
    • Institut de Ciències del MarCSIC
  • M. Estrada
    • Institut de Ciències del MarCSIC

DOI: 10.1007/BF00346439

Cite this article as:
Berdalet, E. & Estrada, M. Marine Biology (1993) 117: 163. doi:10.1007/BF00346439


We explored the relationships between classical estimators of autotrophic biomass and primary production, such as chlorophyll a concentration and 14C-fixation rates, and biochemical indices based on DNA and RNA determinations, which have been proposed as indicators of physiological state in natural plankton populations. The measurements were made during two cruises across the Catalan Front, carried out in May 1989 and February 1990, corresponding respectively, to periods of stratification and moderate mixing. DNA and RNA concentrations (measured by a double-staining fluorimetric technique) were significantly correlated with chlorophyll a in February 1990, but not in May 1989, when a marked deep chlorophyll maximum was present. Significant positive correlations between RNA concentration and primary production and between RNA: DNA and primary production were found during both surveys, probably reflecting both higher RNA concentrations per cell and enhanced bacterial and microheterotrophic growth in high primary production situations. The results support the potential usefulness, in biological oceanography, of biochemical indicators based on DNA and RNA concentrations.

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© Springer-Verlag 1993