Spring bloom community change modifies carbon pathways and C : N : P : Chl a stoichiometry of coastal material fluxes
Abstract. Diatoms and dinoflagellates are major bloom-forming phytoplankton groups competing for resources in the oceans and coastal seas. Recent evidence suggests that their competition is significantly affected by climatic factors under ongoing change, modifying especially the conditions for cold-water, spring bloom communities in temperate and Arctic regions. We investigated the effects of phytoplankton community composition on spring bloom carbon flows and nutrient stoichiometry in multiyear mesocosm experiments. Comparison of differing communities showed that community structure significantly affected C accumulation parameters, with highest particulate organic carbon (POC) buildup and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) release in diatom-dominated communities. In terms of inorganic nutrient drawdown and bloom accumulation phase, the dominating groups behaved as functional surrogates. Dominance patterns, however, significantly affected C : N : P : Chl a ratios over the whole bloom event: when diatoms were dominant, these ratios increased compared to dinoflagellate dominance or mixed communities. Diatom-dominated communities sequestered carbon up to 3.6-fold higher than the expectation based on the Redfield ratio, and 2-fold higher compared to dinoflagellate dominance. To our knowledge, this is the first experimental report of consequences of climatically driven shifts in phytoplankton dominance patterns for carbon sequestration and related biogeochemical cycles in coastal seas. Our results also highlight the need for remote sensing technologies with taxonomical resolution, as the C : Chl a ratio was strongly dependent on community composition and bloom stage. Climate-driven changes in phytoplankton dominance patterns will have far-reaching consequences for major biogeochemical cycles and need to be considered in climate change scenarios for marine systems.