Phytoplankton Standing Crop and Primary Productivity in the Tropical Pacific

  • Sayed Z. El-Sayed
  • Satoru Taguchi
Part of the Marine Science book series (MR, volume 9)


Phytoplankton standing crop and primary production were studied during the summer of 1975 and the winter of 1976, in the Deep Ocean Mining Environmental Study (DOMES) area between 5° – 20°N and 128° – 155°W. Chlorophyll a values (used as a measure of phytoplankton standing crop) averaged 0.063 mg/m3 in summer and 0.17 mg/m3 in winter. In the euphotic zone average values were 9.8 mg/m2 in the summer and 21 mg/m2 in the winter. The vertical distribution of chlorophyll a at the majority of the stations occupied was characterized by the presence of a subsurface chlorophyll maximum layer (CML). CML was found at a deeper depth (about 60 ± 24 m) in summer than in winter (about 54 ± 30 m). This layer occurred either at the middle or the bottom of the maximum density gradient (pycnocline) in summer whereas in winter it was found either at the top or the middle of the pycnocline. CML was also found to be closely associated with the distribution of the nutricline especially that of NO3-N.

Chlorophyll maximum was found to correspond to the depth of about 10% and 20% of surface light level in summer and winter, respectively. The concentration in the chlorophyll maximum exceeded the surface concentration by a factor of 3.6 (± 1.9) in summer and by a factor of 1.8(±0.8) in winter. At the chlorophyll maximum layer the proportion of chlorophyll a to the total pigments (i. e. chlorophyll a plus phaeopigments) was lower (0.44 ± 0.06) in summer than in winter (0.56 ±.13). Following the chlorophyll a maximum, there was a general decrease in this algal pigment. In summer, 6.61% of chlorophyll a content in the water column occurred below the depth of 1% light level (average: 19 ± 17%). In winter the chlorophyll concentration ranged between 8 and 78% with an average of 22 ± 18%. The coccolithophrid Gephyrocapsa huxleyi is the dominant species in the chlorophyll maximum layer. Our data suggest that the chlorophyll maximum layer is due either to zooplankton grazing or to slower growth of larger phytoplankton cells. Our data also permit us to draw the conclusion that the phytoplankton standing crop is likely to be controlled by the depth of the surface mixed layer.

The contribution of the nannoplankton (organisms > 20µ,m) to total chlorophyll in the water column averaged 84% for both summer and winter cruises.

Primary production in the surface water averaged 1.5 mgC/m3/ day in summer and 2.7 mgC/m3/day in winter. The daily primary production in the euphotic zone was 120 mgC/m2/day in summer and 144 mgC/m2/day in winter. Nannoplankton contribution to primary production averaged about 77% for both summer and winter cruises. The phytoplankton below the euphotic zone contributed about 5% of the production in the water column. Unlike the phytoplankton standing crop, primary production was not controlled by the depth of the surface mixed layer. Analysis of variance showed spatial and seasonal variations in the phytoplankton standing crop and primary production. The degree of variability (which varied by a factor of two) was of the same magnitude found in adjacent regions by other investigators.


Photosynthetically Active Solar Radiation Euphotic Zone Surface Mixed Layer Chlorophyll Maximum National Marine Fishery 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sayed Z. El-Sayed
    • 1
  • Satoru Taguchi
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of OceanographyTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  2. 2.Hawaii Institute of Marine BiologyUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaCoconut Island KaneoheUSA

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