Polar Biology

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 133–148 | Cite as

The biochemical composition of phytoplankton in the Laptev and East Siberian seas during the summer of 2013

  • So Hyun Ahn
  • Terry E. Whitledge
  • Dean A. Stockwell
  • Jang Han Lee
  • Ho won Lee
  • Sang Heon LeeEmail author
Original Paper


The Laptev and East Siberian seas which are generally viewed as terrestrial organic matter (TerrOM)-dominated seas, are among the least biologically understood regions in the Arctic Ocean. During the summer of 2013, however, the TerrOM signature was negligible in our samples. We investigated the biochemical composition (carbohydrates [CHO], proteins [PRT], and lipids [LIP]) of phytoplankton-dominated particulate organic matter in order to improve our understanding of the physiological status of resident phytoplankton. Our chlorophyll-a values and the presence of SCMs and resting spores were associated with a cessation of the phytoplankton bloom. Despite the low inorganic nitrogen nutrients in the water column, the cellular PRT (39%) were comparable to CHO (42%) contents and the inorganic (dissolved nitrogen:dissolved phosphate) and organic (PRT:CHO) indices did not indicate a nitrogen stress of phytoplankton metabolism. Altogether, the phytoplankton were likely in a growth transition from the exponential to the stationary phase, resulting in CHO-dominated cells with moderate PRT. By comparing our biochemical analyses with the LIP-dominated (> 50%) ones in the Chukchi Sea (the summers of 2011 and 2012), we conclude that more severe nitrogen-limited conditions occurred in the Chukchi Sea. In a quality aspect, we suggest that consumers which feed on LIP-rich phytoplankton could have an advantage to overwinter while those feeding on CHO-rich phytoplankton will gain energy efficiently in a short term. Therefore, the biochemical composition of phytoplankton could be a valid integrator of surrounding environments in which phytoplankton grow and can be a good indicator of their nutritional value.


Carbohydrates Proteins Lipids Phytoplankton Laptev Sea East Siberian Sea 



This study was a part of the Nansen and Amundsen Basins Observational System (NABOS), and we thank all members of the NABOS in 2013.


This work was supported by the Korea Research Foundation (KRF) grant funded by the Korean government (MEST; No.2016015679).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that no conflict of interest exists.

Ethical approval

The article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • So Hyun Ahn
    • 1
  • Terry E. Whitledge
    • 2
  • Dean A. Stockwell
    • 2
  • Jang Han Lee
    • 3
  • Ho won Lee
    • 4
  • Sang Heon Lee
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of OceanographyPusan National UniversityBusanSouth Korea
  2. 2.Institute of Marine ScienceUniversity of AlaskaFairbanksUSA
  3. 3.Départment de Biologie and Québec-OcéanUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  4. 4.Korea Institute of Ocean Science and TechnologyBusanSouth Korea

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