Effects of an iron-light co-limitation on the elemental composition (Si, C, N) of the marine diatoms Thalassiosira oceanica and Ditylum brightwellii
Abstract. We examined the effect of iron (Fe) and Fe-light (Fe-L) co-limitation on cellular silica (BSi), carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) in two marine diatoms, the small oceanic diatom Thalassiosira oceanica and the large coastal species Ditylum brightwellii. We showed that C and N per cell tend to decrease with increasing Fe limitation (i.e. decreasing growth rate), both under high light (HL) and low light (LL). We observed an increase (T. oceanica, LL), no change (T. oceanica, HL) and a decrease (D. brightwellii, HL and LL) in BSi per cell with increasing degree of limitation. The comparison with literature data showed that the trend in C and N per cell for other Fe limited diatoms was similar to ours. Interspecific differences in C and N quotas of Fe limited diatoms observed in the literature seem thus to be mostly due to variations in cell volume. On the contrary, there was no global trend in BSi per cell or per cell volume, which suggests that other interspecific differences than Fe-induced variations in cell volume influence the degree of silicification. The relative variations in C:N, Si:C and Si:N versus the relative variation in specific growth rate (i.e. μ:μmax) followed the same patterns for T. oceanica and D. brightwellii, whatever the irradiance level. However, the variations of C:N under Fe limitation reported in the literature for other diatoms are contrasted, which may thus be more related to growth conditions than to interspecific differences. As observed in other studies, Si:C and Si:N ratios increased by more than 2-fold between 100% and 40% of μmax. Under more severe limitation (HL and LL), we observed for the first time a decrease in these ratios. These results may have important biogeochemical implications on the understanding and the modelling of the oceanic biogeochemical cycles, e.g. carbon and silica export.