Invariable biomass-specific primary production of taxonomically discrete picoeukaryote groups across the Atlantic Ocean

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Oceanic photosynthetic picoeukaryotes (< 3 μm) are responsible for > 40% of total primary production at low latitudes such as the North-Eastern tropical Atlantic. In the world ocean, warmed by climate changes, the expected gradual shift towards smaller primary producers could render the role of photosynthetic picoeukaryotes even more important than they are today. Little is still known, however, about how the taxonomic composition of this highly diverse group affects primary production at the basin scale. Here, we combined flow cytometric cell sorting, NaH14CO3 radiotracer incubations and class-specific fluorescencein situhybridization (FISH) probes to determine cell- and biomass-specific inorganic carbon fixation rates and taxonomic composition of two major photosynthetic picoeukaryote groups on a ˜7500-km-long latitudinal transect across the Atlantic Ocean (Atlantic Meridional Transect, AMT19). We show that even though larger cells have, on average, cell-specific CO2 uptake rates ˜5 times higher than the smaller ones, the average biomass-specific uptake is statistically similar for both groups. On the other hand, even at a high taxonomic level, i.e. class, the contributions to both groups byPrymnesiophyceae,ChrysophyceaeandPelagophyceaeare significantly different (P< 0.001 in all cases). We therefore conclude that these group's carbon fixation rates are independent of the taxonomic composition of photosynthetic picoeukaryotes across the Atlantic Ocean. Because the above applies across different oceanic regions the diversity changes seem to be a secondary factor determining primary production.

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