Marine Biology

, Volume 159, Issue 12, pp 2827–2837 | Cite as

Antarctic coastal microalgal primary production and photosynthesis

  • Andrew McMinnEmail author
  • Chris Ashworth
  • Ranjeet Bhagooli
  • Andrew Martin
  • Sazlina Salleh
  • Peter Ralph
  • Ken Ryan
Original Paper


Primary production in coastal Antarctica is primarily contributed from three sources: sea ice algae, phytoplankton, and microphytobenthos. Compared to other eastern Antarctic sites, the sea ice microalgal biomass at Casey Station, in spring 2005 was relatively low, 3.84 ± 1.67 to 21.6 ± 13.3 mg chl-a m−2 but productive, 103–163 mg C m−2 day−1. The photosynthetic parameters, F v/F m and rETRmax, imply a community well-acclimated to the light climate of the benthic, water column, and sea ice habitats. Phytoplankton biomass was greatest in late spring (11.1 ± 0.920 μg chl-a l−1), which probably reflects input from the overlying sea ice. Lower biomass and depressed F v/F m values later in the season were probably due to nutrient limitation. Benthic microalgal biomass was consistently between 200 and 400 mg chl-a m−2 and production increased through into late summer (204 mg C m−2 day−1). After the sea ice broke out, the marine environment supported a small phytoplankton biomass and a large benthic microalgal biomass. Compared with previous studies, F v/F m values were relatively low but there was no evidence of photoinhibition. When sea ice was present, primary production of benthic microalgae was either very low or there was a net draw down of oxygen. The benthic microalgal community made a larger contribution to total primary production than the phytoplankton or sea ice algae at water depth less than approximately 5 m.


Phytoplankton Phytoplankton Biomass Rapid Light Curve Rapid Light Curf Maximum Electron Transport Rate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Andrew McMinn and Peter Ralph acknowledge support from an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant. Logistic support was provided by the Australian Antarctic Division.


  1. Arrigo KR, Thomas DN (2004) Large scale importance of sea ice biology in the Southern Ocean. Antarct Sci 16:471–486CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arrigo KR, Van Dijken G, Pabi S (2008) The impact of a shrinking Arctic ice cover on marine primary production. Geophys Res Lett 35:L19603. doi: 10.1029/2008GL035028 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beans C, Hecq JH, Koubbi P, Vallet C, Wright S, Goffart A (2008) A study of the diatom-dominated microplankton summer assemblages in coastal waters from Terre Adélie to the Mertz Glacier, East Antarctica (139°E–145°E). Polar Biol 31:1011–1117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blanchard GF, Guarini J-M, Orvain F, Sauriau P-G (2000) Dynamic behaviour of benthic microalgal biomass in intertidal mudflats. J Expt Mar Biol Ecol 264:85–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blanchard GF, Guarini J-M, Dang C, Richard P (2004) Characterizing and quantifying photoinhibition in intertidal microphytobenthos. J Phycol 40:692–696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Broecker WS, Peng TH (1974) Gas exchange rates between air and sea. Tellus 26:21–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Davidson AT, Marchant HJ (1992) Protist abundance and carbon concentration during a Phaeocystis-dominated bloom at an Antarctic coastal site. Polar Biol 12:387–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dayton PK (1990) Polar benthos. In: Smith WO (ed) Polar oceanography, part B: chemistry, biology, and geology. Academic Press, London, pp 631–685Google Scholar
  9. Dayton PK, Oliver JS (1977) Antarctic soft-bottom benthos in oligotrophic and eutrophic environments. Science 197:55–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dayton PK, Watson D, Palmisano A, Barry JP, Oliver JS, Rivera D (1986) Distributional patterns of benthic microalgal standing stock at McMurdo Sound, Antarctic. Polar Biol 6:207–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Genty B, Briantias JM, Baker NR (1989) The relationship between the quantum yield of photosynthetic electron transport and quenching of chlorophyll fluorescence. Biochem Biophys Acta 990:87–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gilbert NS (1991) Primary production by benthic microalage in near shore marine sediments of Signey Island, Antarctica. Polar Biol 11:339–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gillies CL, Stark JS, Johnstone GJ, Smith SDA (2012) Carbon flow and trophic structure of an Antarctic coastal benthic community as determined by delta C-13 and delta N-15. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 97:44–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Glud RN, Kühl M, Wenzhöfer F, Rysgaard S (2002) Benthic microphytes of a high arctic fjord: importance for ecosystem primary production. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 238:15–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Glud RN, Woelfel J, Karsten U, Kühl M, Rysgaard S (2009) Benthic microalgal production in the Arctic: applied methods and status of the current database. Bot Mar 52:559–571Google Scholar
  16. Griffith GP, Vennell R, Lamare MD (2009) Diadinoxanthin cycle of the bottom ice algal community during spring in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Polar Biol 32:623–663CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jorgensen BB, Revsbech NP (1985) Diffusive boundary layers and the oxygen uptake of sediments and detritus. Limnol Oceanog 30:111–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Knox GA (2006) Biology of the Southern Ocean, 2nd edn. CRC Press, ChristchurchCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Krause GH, Jahns P (2003) Pulse amplitude modulated chlorophyll flourometry and its applications in plant science. In: Green BR, Parson WW (eds) Light-harvesting antennas in photosynthesis; advances in photosynthesis and respiration. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 373–399Google Scholar
  20. Kühl M, Lassen C, Jorgensen BB (1994) Light penetration and light intensity in sandy marine sediments measured with irradiance and scalar irradiance fibre-optic microprobes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 105:139–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Leu E, Wiktor J, Soreide JE, Berge J, Falk-Petersen S (2010) Increased irradiance reduces food quality of sea ice algae. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 411:49–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lewis MR, Smith JC (1983) A small volume short incubation time method for the measurement of photosynthesis as a function of incident irradiance. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 13:99–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Longphuirt SN, Clavier J, Grall J, Chauvaud L, Le Loch F, Le Berre F, Flye-Sainte-Marie L, Richard J, Leynaert A (2007) Primary production and spatial distribution of subtidal microphytobenthos in a temperate coastal system, the Bay of Brest, France. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 74:367–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McConville MJ, Mitchell C, Wetherbee R (1985) Patterns of carbon assimilation in a microalgal community from annual sea ice in eastern Antarctica. Polar Biol 4:135–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McMinn A (1996) Preliminary investigation of the contribution of fast ice algae to the spring phytoplankton bloom in Ellis Fjord, eastern Antarctica. Polar Biol 16:301–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McMinn A, Ashworth C (1998) The use of oxygen microelectrodes to determine the net production by an Antarctic sea ice algal community. Antarct Sci 10:30–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. McMinn A, Hodgson D (1993) Seasonal phytoplankton succession in Ellis Fjord, eastern Antarctica. J Plankton Res 15:925–938CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McMinn A, Gibson J, Hodgson D, Aschman J (1995) Nutrient limitation in Ellis Fjord, Antarctica. Polar Biol 15:269–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. McMinn A, Ashworth C, Ryan KG (2000a) In situ net primary productivity of an Antarctic fast ice bottom algal community. Aquat Microb Ecol 21:177–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. McMinn A, Bleakley N, Steinburner K, Roberts D, Trenerry L (2000b) Effect of permanent sea ice cover and different nutrient regimes on the phytoplankton succession of fjords of the Vestfold Hills Oasis, eastern Antarctica. J Plankton Res 22:287–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McMinn A, Runcie J, Riddle M (2004) The effect of seasonal sea ice break-out on the photosynthesis of benthic diatom mats at Casey, Antarctica. J Phycol 40:62–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McMinn A, Hirawake T, Hamaoka T, Hattori H, Fukuchi M (2005) Contribution of benthic microalgae to ice covered coastal ecosystems in northern Hokkaido, Japan. J Mar Biol Assoc UK 85:283–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McMinn A, Martin A, Ryan K (2010a) Phytoplankton and sea ice biomass and physiology during the transition between winter and spring (McMurdo Sound, Antarctica). Polar Biol 33:1547–1556CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McMinn A, Pankowski A, Ashworth C, Bhagooli R, Ralph P, Ryan K (2010b) In situ net primary productivity and photosynthesis of Antarctic sea ice algal, phytoplankton and benthic algal communities. Mar Biol 157:1345–1356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Miller KA, Pearse JS (1991) Ecological studies of seaweeds in McMurdo sound, Antarctica. Am Zool 31:35–48Google Scholar
  36. Palmisano AC, Sullivan CW (1983) Sea ice microbial communities (SIMCO) I. Distribution, abundance and primary production of microalgae in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. J Phycol 18:489–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pearce I, Davidson AT, Wright S, Van Den Enden R (2008) Seasonal changes in phytoplankton growth and microzooplankton grazing at an Antarctic coastal site. Aquat Microb Biol 50:157–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pearse JS, McClintock JB, Bosch I (1991) Reproduction of Antarctic benthic marine invertebrates: tempos, modes, and timing. Am Zool 31:65–80Google Scholar
  39. Perrin RA, Lu P, Marchant HJ (1987) Seasonal variation in marine phytoplankton and ice algae at a shallow coastal site. Hydrobiolgia 146:33–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Platt T, Gallegos CL, Harrison WG (1980) Photoinhibition of photosynthesis in natural assemblages of marine phytoplankton. J Mar Res 38:687–701Google Scholar
  41. Ralph PJ, Gademann R (2005) Rapid light curves: a powerful tool to assess photosynthetic activity. Aquat Bot 82:222–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Ralph PJ, McMinn A, Ryan K, Ashworth C (2005) Short-term effect of temperature on the photokinetics of microalgae from the surface layers of Antarctic pack ice. J Phycol 41:763–769CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ralph PJ, Ryan KG, Martin A, Fenton G (2007) Melting-out of sea-ice algae causes greater photosynthetic stress than freezing-in. J Phycol 43:948–956CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Revsbech NP, Jorgensen BB (1986) Microelectrodes: their use in microbial ecology. In: Marshall KC (ed) Advances in microbial ecology. Plenum Press, NY, pp 293–352Google Scholar
  45. Rivkin RB (1991) Seasonal patterns of planktonic production in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Am Zool 31:5–16Google Scholar
  46. Robinson C, Archer S, Williams PJ (1999) Microbial dynamics in coastal waters of East Antarctica: plankton production and respiration. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 180:23–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Satoh H, Watanabe K (1988) Primary productivity in the fast ice area near Syowa Station, Antarctica, during spring and summer 1983/1984. J Oceanogr Soc Jpn 44:287–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Skowronski RSP, Gheller PF, Bromberg S, David CJ, Petti MAV, Corbisier TN (2009) Distribution of microphytobenthic biomass in Martel Inlet, King George Island (Antarctica). Polar Biol 32:839–851CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Stark JS (2000) The distribution and abundance of soft-sediment macrobenthos around Casey Station, East Antarctica. Polar Biol 23:840–850CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Strickland JDH, Parsons TR (1972) A practical handbook of seawater analysis, 2nd ed. Bull Fish Res Board Canada, vol 167, pp 1–311Google Scholar
  51. Sundback K, Jonsson B (1988) Microphytobenthic productivity and biomass in sublittoral sediments of a stratified bay, southeastern Kattegat. J Expt Mar Biol Ecol 122:63–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Trenerry LJ, McMinn A, Ryan KG (2002) In situ oxygen microelectrode measurements of bottom-ice algal production in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Polar Biol 25:72–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Turner J, Comiso JC, Marshall GJ, Lachlan-Cope TA, Bracegirdle T, Maksym T, Meredith MP, Wang Z, Orr A (2009) Non-annular atmospheric circulation change induced by stratospheric ozone depletion and its role in the recent increase of Antarctic sea ice extent. Geophys Res Lett. doi: 10.1029/2009GL037524
  54. Urabe J, Takehito Y, Gurung TB, Sekino T, Tsugeki N, Nozaki K, Maruo M, Nakayama E, Nakanishi M (2004) The production-to-respiration ratio and its implication in Lake Biwa, Japan. Ecol Res 20:367–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Walsh JJ, Dieterle DA, Maslowski W, Grebmeier JM, Whitledge TE, Flint M, Sukhanova IN, Bates N, Cota GF, Stockwell D, Moran SB, Hansell DA, McRoy CP (2005) A numerical model of seasonal primary production within the Chukchi/Beaufort Seas. Deep Sea Res II Topical Stud Oceanog 52:3541–3576Google Scholar
  56. White AJ, Critchley C (1999) Rapid light curves: a new fluorescence method to assess the state of photosynthetic apparatus. Photosynth Res 59:63–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew McMinn
    • 1
    Email author
  • Chris Ashworth
    • 1
  • Ranjeet Bhagooli
    • 1
    • 4
  • Andrew Martin
    • 1
  • Sazlina Salleh
    • 1
    • 5
  • Peter Ralph
    • 2
  • Ken Ryan
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Marine and Antarctic StudiesUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  2. 2.Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster (C3)University of Technology, SydneyBroadwayAustralia
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  4. 4.Department of BioSciencesUniversity of MauritiusReduitMauritius
  5. 5.Center for Marine and Coastal StudiesUniversiti Sains MalaysiaMindenMalaysia

Personalised recommendations