Phytoplankton pigments and community structure in the northeastern tropical pacific using HPLC-CHEMTAX analysis

  • Cristina Miranda-Alvarez
  • Adriana González-SilveraEmail author
  • Eduardo Santamaría-del-Angel
  • Jorge López-Calderón
  • Victor M. Godínez
  • Laura Sánchez-Velasco
  • Rafael Hernández-Walls
Original Article


This study investigated the relationship between phytoplankton biomass and taxonomic composition and hydrographic variables in the Northeastern Tropical Pacific for June 2015, March 2016, and September 2016. Hydrographic data were measured between surface and 100 m; samples were collected at the surface and the deep chlorophyll maximum (DCM) along one or two transects. Pigments were quantified by high-performance liquid chromatography; the CHEMTAX software was used to determine the relative contribution to chlorophyll a of the main taxonomic groups. Our results show that the studied region is characterized by a stable vertical distribution of phytoplankton biomass regardless of the season (winter, spring or summer). A subsurface maximum (DCM) is always observed close to the bottom of the mixed layer where there is a higher abundance of larger groups (diatoms and Prymnesiophytes) while at the surface community, composition was generally dominated by picoplankton (Cyanobacteria and Prochlorococcus), and occasionally Prymnesiophytes. However, during the spring cruise (June 2015), affected by the 2015–2016 El Niño, phytoplankton biomass at the DCM markedly decreased along with an increase in the abundance of Chlorophytes. On the other hand, in September 2016, there was an unexpected increase in phytoplankton biomass at the DCM, although stratification was strong, and Prymnesiophytes comprised 60% of the community at the surface. The evaluation of nutrient and light will be necessary in future studies to determine their role in this temporal variability. Finally, chemotaxonomy (HPLC/CHEMTAX) proved to be a valuable tool for describing phytoplankton distribution at group level in this region and its relationship with physical processes.


Phytoplankton taxonomic composition HPLC CHEMTAX Northeastern Tropical Pacific 2015–2016 El Niño 



This study was supported by the projects "Influence of mesoscale eddies on fish larval habitats (with emphasis on commercially important species) in the oxygen minimum zone of the Pacific Ocean off Mexico: open ocean and island effect" (SEP-CONACyT 236864) and "Testing paradigms on the expansion of the oxygen minimum zone: reduction of the vertical habitat of zooplankton and its effect on the pelagic ecosystem by means of autonomous sampling methods" (CONACYT 8662). The first author received support from CONACyT (Mexican Council of Science) through a Ph.D. scholarship (No. 446005). The authors gratefully acknowledge the comments of two anonymous reviewers. María Elena Sánchez-Salazar edited the English manuscript.

Supplementary material

10872_2019_528_MOESM1_ESM.docx (49 kb)
Supplementary file1 (DOCX 49 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Oceanographic Society of Japan and Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristina Miranda-Alvarez
    • 1
  • Adriana González-Silvera
    • 2
    Email author
  • Eduardo Santamaría-del-Angel
    • 2
  • Jorge López-Calderón
    • 2
  • Victor M. Godínez
    • 3
  • Laura Sánchez-Velasco
    • 4
  • Rafael Hernández-Walls
    • 2
  1. 1.Post-Graduate Program in Coastal OceanographyFacultad de Ciencias MarinasEnsenadaMexico
  2. 2.Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Facultad de Ciencias MarinasEnsenadaMexico
  3. 3.Departamento de Oceanografía FísicaCICESEEnsenadaMexico
  4. 4.Instituto Politécnico NacionalCICIMAR-IPN, BCSLa PazMexico

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