Estimating Phytoplankton Growth Rates in the Central Oligotrophic Oceans

  • Richard W. Eppley
Part of the Environmental Science Research book series (ESRH, volume 19)


Measurements of primary production in the ocean by the 14C method are not as useful as simultaneous assessments of production and the phytoplankton standing stock. To a first approximation the two measurements together allow estimation of phytoplankton growth rate (μ) since
$$ \frac{1} {{\text{P}}}\frac{{\Delta {\text{P}}}} {{\Delta {\text{t}}}} = \mu $$
where P is the standing stock and ΔP/Δt the production rate. It is the estimation of μ which allows comparison of the field data to the large literature on algal physiology based upon careful laboratory measurements. This literature provides guidelines for judging the reliability of the field data as it sets limits for the likely values of μ as a function of environmental variables such as temperature, irradiance, daylength and concentrations of dissolved substances. Without such comparison there is no basis for judging the value of the field data except by comparison with other such data from similar habitats. Both data sets might be in error, however, because of common problems in conceptor methodology. Bannister (1, 2) has made comparisons of field data on photosynthesis rate and chlorophyll with laboratory data, but the latter data base including these measurements is very small. Ultimately the carbon/chlorophyll ratio of the phytoplankton is needed to make comparisons between photosynthesis/chlorophyll and growth rate (3).


Phytoplankton Biomass Particulate Organic Carbon Standing Stock Grazing Rate Photic Zone 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard W. Eppley
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Marine Resources, Scripps Institution of OceanographyUniversity of CaliforniaSan Diego, La JollaUSA

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