A dynamic model of the cellular carbon to chlorophyll ratio applied to a batch culture and a continental shelf ecosystem

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Journal Article
Limnology and Oceanography, 2013, 58 (4), pp. 1215 - 1226
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A novel parameterization of the dynamical relationship between cellular carbon (C) and chlorophyll (Chl) is developed using a Chl synthesis term that includes the physiological status of the cell and the effect of packaging of pigments within cells. The geometric derivation highlights the non-linear relationship between Chl content and absorption due to the package effect. When parameterized for a generic 3 μm radius phytoplankton cell, the model reproduces the magnitude and daily variations of C: Chl and C: nitrogen ratios of the diatom Skeletonema costatum in published laboratory experiments. The parameterization is then applied in a three-dimensional biogeochemical model containing three phytoplankton classes in the coastal waters off southeast Tasmania, Australia, which demonstrates the behavior of the dynamic Chl parameterization over a range of light-and nutrient-limiting environments for phytoplankton of different sizes and growth rates. The model produces C: Chl ratios of ~12-20 (weight: weight) and ~60-80 for phytoplankton communities dominated by fast-growing small and fast-growing large cells, respectively, close to the ratios of 17 and 76 observed at two sampling stations during periods with diatom-and flagellate-dominated communities. Throughout the simulation, community C: Chl ratios generally vary between 12 and 200, which is similar to the range observed globally. In the new parameterization, C: Chl ratios are most influenced by the package effect for light-limited, slow-growing large microalgae, with physiological processes becoming important for smaller, nutrient-limited, fast-growing microalgae. © 2013, by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, Inc.
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