Phytoplankton

Abstract

Phytoplankton is defined as free‐floating unicells and colonies that grow photo‐autotrophically in aquatic environments. Phytoplankton plays a key role in the primary production and global elemental cycles of the Earth.

Keywords: algae; cyanobacteria; chlorophyll; primary production; food webs; protists

Figure 1.

Ocean phytoplankton distribution as seen from the SeaWifs satellite. (a) Average map of chlorophyll concentration between September 1997 and August 2000 (Image from http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=1078). (b) Coccolithophorid bloom (arrows) in the English Channel on June 4, 2001 (Image from http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=2418).

Figure 2.

A few phytoplankton species. (a) The diatom Skeletonema costatum under bright field (left) and epifluorescence microscopy (right), revealing the red fluorescence of chlorophyll. (b) The dinoflagellate Alexandrium tamarense. (c) The prymnesiophyte Emiliania huxleyi. The picoplanktonic cyanobacteria Synechococcus (d) and Prochlorococcus (e) Bar, (a, b) 10 µm, (c) 1 µm (d, e) 0.5 µm. Panels (c) reproduced from Riebesell et al. (2000) Nature407: 364–367 (d)–(e) from Chisholm et al.Nature334: 340–343.

Figure 3.

(a) Schematic vertical distribution of phytoplankton in the open ocean. (b) Some of the key phytoplankton types and some of the factors involved in their control. No attempt has been made to link a given type of phytoplankton to a given factor as many of the relationships are still not clear.

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Further Reading

Andersen RA (2005) Algal Culturing Techniques. New York: Academic Press.

Jeffrey SW, Mantoura RFC and Wright SW (1997) Phytoplankton Pigments in Oceanography: Guidelines to Modern Methods. Paris: UNESCO Publishing.

Longhurst AR and Harrison WG (1989) The biological pump: profiles of plankton production and consumption in the upper ocean. Progress in Oceanography 22: 47–123.

Tomas CR (1997) Identifying Marine Phytoplankton. San Diego: Academic Press.

van den Hoek C, Mann D and Jahns H (1995) Algae: An Introduction to Phycology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Web sites Plankton* Net, a taxonomic resource for phytoplankton: http://e‐bck.rd.awi‐bremerhaven.de/protist/baypaul/microscope/general/page_01b.htm.

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How to Cite close
Vaulot, Daniel(Apr 2006) Phytoplankton. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0004306]