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1.  Evolutionary inheritance of elemental stoichiometry in phytoplankton 
The elemental composition of phytoplankton is a fusion of the evolutionary history of the host and plastid, resulting in differences in genetic constraints and selection pressures associated with environmental conditions. The evolutionary inheritance hypothesis predicts similarities in elemental composition within related taxonomic lineages of phytoplankton. To test this hypothesis, we measured the elemental composition (C, N, P, S, K, Mg, Ca, Sr, Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, Co, Cd and Mo) of 14 phytoplankton species and combined these with published data from 15 more species from both marine and freshwater environments grown under nutrient-replete conditions. The largest differences in the elemental profiles of the species distinguish between the prokaryotic Cyanophyta and primary endosymbiotic events that resulted in the green and red plastid lineages. Smaller differences in trace element stoichiometry within the red and green plastid lineages are consistent with changes in trace elemental stoichiometry owing to the processes associated with secondary endosymbioses and inheritance by descent with modification.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.1356
PMCID: PMC3025679  PMID: 20826483
phytoplankton; evolution; stoichiometry; endosymbiosis; trace metals; Redfield ratio
2.  Environmental control of diatom community size structure varies across aquatic ecosystems 
Changes in the size structure of photoautotrophs influence food web structure and the biogeochemical cycling of carbon. Decreases in the median size of diatoms within communities, in concert with climate warming and water column stratification, have been observed over the Cenozoic in the ocean and over the last 50 years in Lake Tahoe. Decreases in the proportion of larger plankton are frequently observed in response to reduced concentrations of limiting nutrients in marine systems and large stratified lakes. By contrast, we show a decrease in the median size of planktonic diatoms in response to higher nutrient concentrations in a set of intermediate-sized alkaline lakes. Climate-induced increases in the frequency, duration and strength of water column stratification may select smaller planktonic species in the ocean and larger lakes owing to a reduction in nutrient availability and sinking rates, while light limitation, stimulated by nutrient eutrophication and high chlorophyll concentrations, may select smaller species within a community owing to their high light absorption efficiencies and lower sinking rates. The relative importance of different physiological and ecological rates and processes on the size structure of communities varies in different aquatic systems owing to varying combinations of abiotic and biotic constraints.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.1610
PMCID: PMC2660978  PMID: 19203916
cell size; climate change; environmental change; eutrophication; macroecology; phytoplankton and diatoms
3.  Mining a Sea of Data: Deducing the Environmental Controls of Ocean Chlorophyll 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(11):e3836.
Chlorophyll biomass in the surface ocean is regulated by a complex interaction of physiological, oceanographic, and ecological factors and in turn regulates the rates of primary production and export of organic carbon to the deep ocean. Mechanistic models of phytoplankton responses to climate change require the parameterization of many processes of which we have limited knowledge. We develop a statistical approach to estimate the response of remote-sensed ocean chlorophyll to a variety of physical and chemical variables. Irradiance over the mixed layer depth, surface nitrate, sea-surface temperature, and latitude and longitude together can predict 83% of the variation in log chlorophyll in the North Atlantic. Light and nitrate regulate biomass through an empirically determined minimum function explaining nearly 50% of the variation in log chlorophyll by themselves and confirming that either light or macronutrients are often limiting and that much of the variation in chlorophyll concentration is determined by bottom-up mechanisms. Assuming the dynamics of the future ocean are governed by the same processes at work today, we should be able to apply these response functions to future climate change scenarios, with changes in temperature, nutrient distributions, irradiance, and ocean physics.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003836
PMCID: PMC2584232  PMID: 19043583
4.  Light Variability Illuminates Niche-Partitioning among Marine Picocyanobacteria 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(12):e1341.
Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus picocyanobacteria are dominant contributors to marine primary production over large areas of the ocean. Phytoplankton cells are entrained in the water column and are thus often exposed to rapid changes in irradiance within the upper mixed layer of the ocean. An upward fluctuation in irradiance can result in photosystem II photoinactivation exceeding counteracting repair rates through protein turnover, thereby leading to net photoinhibition of primary productivity, and potentially cell death. Here we show that the effective cross-section for photosystem II photoinactivation is conserved across the picocyanobacteria, but that their photosystem II repair capacity and protein-specific photosystem II light capture are negatively correlated and vary widely across the strains. The differences in repair rate correspond to the light and nutrient conditions that characterize the site of origin of the Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus isolates, and determine the upward fluctuation in irradiance they can tolerate, indicating that photoinhibition due to transient high-light exposure influences their distribution in the ocean.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001341
PMCID: PMC2129112  PMID: 18092006
5.  Influence of Cell Size and DNA Content on Growth Rate and Photosystem II Function in Cryptic Species of Ditylum brightwellii 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52916.
DNA content and cell volume have both been hypothesized as controls on metabolic rate and other physiological traits. We use cultures of two cryptic species of Ditylum brightwellii (West) Grunow with an approximately two-fold difference in genome size and a small and large culture of each clone obtained by isolating small and large cells to compare the physiological consequences of size changes due to differences in DNA content and reduction in cell size following many generations of asexual reproduction. We quantified the growth rate, the functional absorption cross-section of photosystem II (PSII), susceptibility of PSII to photoinactivation, PSII repair capacity, and PSII reaction center proteins D1 (PsbA) and D2 (PsbD) for each culture at a range of irradiances. The species with the smaller genome has a higher growth rate and, when acclimated to growth-limiting irradiance, has higher PSII repair rate capacity, PSII functional optical absorption cross-section, and PsbA per unit protein, relative to the species with the larger genome. By contrast, cell division rates vary little within clonal cultures of the same species despite significant differences in average cell volume. Given the similarity in cell division rates within species, larger cells within species have a higher demand for biosynthetic reductant. As a consequence, larger cells within species have higher numbers of PSII per unit protein (PsbA), since PSII photochemically generates the reductant to support biosynthesis. These results suggest that DNA content, as opposed to cell volume, has a key role in setting the differences in maximum growth rate across diatom species of different size while PSII content and related photophysiological traits are influenced by both growth rate and cell size.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052916
PMCID: PMC3534128  PMID: 23300819

Results 1-5 (5)