Both respiration and photosynthesis determine the scaling of plankton metabolism in the oligotrophic ocean

Pablo Serret, Carol Robinson, Maria Aranguren-Gassis, E. Elena Garcia-Martin, Niki Gist, Vassilis Kitidis, Jose Lozano, John Stephens, Carolyn Harris, Rob Thomas

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Despite its importance to ocean–climate interactions, the metabolic state of the oligotrophic ocean has remained controversial for >15 years. Positions in the debate are that it is either hetero- or autotrophic, which suggests either substantial unaccounted for organic matter inputs, or that all available photosynthesis (P) estimations (including 14C) are biased. Here we show the existence of systematic differences in the metabolic state of the North (heterotrophic) and South (autotrophic) Atlantic oligotrophic gyres, resulting from differences in both P and respiration (R). The oligotrophic ocean is neither auto- nor heterotrophic, but functionally diverse. Our results show that the scaling of plankton metabolism by generalized P:R relationships that has sustained the debate is biased, and indicate that the variability of R, and not only of P, needs to be considered in regional estimations of the ocean’s metabolic state.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6961
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2015

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