Marine Biology

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 187–199 | Cite as

Light effects on nutrient-limited, oceanic primary production

  • P. Bienfang
  • K. Gundersen


Phytoplankton growth dynamics were investigated throughout the photic zone at three stations in the North Central Pacific Gyre south of the Hawaiian Islands. Ambient nutrients, vertical light profiles, phytoplankton biomass, and primary production were measured. Photosynthetically active radiation, measured with a submarine quantaspectrophotometer, illustrates vertical variations in photic spectral quality and is presented as incident quanta flux of visible light. Primary production was determined throughout the photic zone under conditions where the samples were collected, injected with 14C, and incubated under entirely in situ conditions to eliminate preincubation perturbation and to ensure representative response to both light quality and quantity. Oceanic phytoplankton activity is described as a continuous function of incident light under the prevailing low nutrient conditions, and the important rate constants are calculated based upon field data from oligotrophic regions. The vertical profiles of phytoplankton activity and incident quanta flux are analyzed in terms of a substrate-limited system according to the equqtion A(z) = A max (q ((z)qo) [K + (q ((z)) − q (o], where q(z) is the quanta flux at a given depth, and A(z) is the phytoplankton assimilation number at that depth. This is done on the rationale that systematically declining levels of quanta flux, vertically, represent corresponding declines in the availability of substrate for the photochemical processes of photosynthesis. Comparison of data from isolated oceanic regions with those from a station located 15 miles off Oahu show that although large differences in the phytoplankton parameters are evident throughout the entire photic zones of these regions, the hyperbolic A(z)-q(z) relationship describes the data fairly well in both cases. The comparison suggests that this relationship may apply to the general case of an oligotrophic water column. These experiments show trends which may be useful for diagnosing phytoplankton activity in the field where N and P levels are low.


Phytoplankton Hawaiian Island Photic Zone Quantum Flux Oligotrophic Water 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Bienfang
    • 1
  • K. Gundersen
    • 2
  1. 1.The Oceanic InstituteWaimanaloUSA
  2. 2.Department of Marine MicrobiologyGöteborgs UniversitetGöteborgSweden

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