01 Jul 2016
Research article |
| 01 Jul 2016
Dynamics of transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) during the VAHINE mesocosm
experiment in the New Caledonian lagoon
In the marine environment, transparent exopolymeric particles (TEP) produced from abiotic and biotic sources link the particulate and dissolved carbon pools and are essential vectors enhancing vertical carbon flux. We characterized spatial and temporal dynamics of TEP during the VAHINE experiment that investigated the fate of diazotroph-derived nitrogen and carbon in three replicate dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP)-fertilized 50 m3 enclosures in the oligotrophic New Caledonian lagoon. During the 23 days of the experiment, we did not observe any depth-dependent changes in TEP concentrations in the three sampled depths (1, 6, 12 m). TEP carbon (TEP-C) content averaged 28.9 ± 9.3 and 27.0 ± 7.2 % of total organic carbon (TOC) in the mesocosms and surrounding lagoon respectively and was strongly and positively coupled with TOC during P2 (i.e., days 15–23). TEP concentrations in the mesocosms declined for the first 9 days after DIP fertilization (P1 = days 5–14) and then gradually increased during the second phase. Temporal changes in TEP concentrations paralleled the growth and mortality rates of the diatom–diazotroph association of Rhizosolenia and Richelia that predominated the diazotroph community during P1. By P2, increasing total primary and heterotrophic bacterial production consumed the supplemented P and reduced availability of DIP. For this period, TEP concentrations were negatively correlated with DIP availability and turnover time of DIP (TDIP), while positively associated with enhanced alkaline phosphatase activity (APA) that occurs when the microbial populations are P stressed. During P2, increasing bacterial production (BP) was positively correlated with higher TEP concentrations, which were also coupled with the increased growth rates and aggregation of the unicellular cyanobacterial Group C (UCYN-C) diazotrophs that bloomed during this period. We conclude that the composite processes responsible for the formation and breakdown of TEP yielded a relatively stable TEP pool available as both a carbon source and facilitating aggregation and flux throughout the experiment. TEP were probably mostly influenced by abiotic physical processes during P1, while biological activity (BP, diazotrophic growth and aggregation, export production) mainly impacted TEP concentrations during P2 when DIP availability was limited.
Received: 29 Nov 2015 – Discussion started: 18 Jan 2016 – Revised: 01 May 2016 – Accepted: 05 May 2016 – Published: 01 Jul 2016