Photosystem efficiency from phytoplankton experiments on the RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer NBP0608 cruise in the Ross Sea Southern Ocean during 2006 (CORSACS project, Antarctic microzooplankton project)

Version: 2013-04-29

» Controls of Ross Sea Algal Community Structure (CORSACS)
» Rising climatic temperatures impact on antarctic microzooplankton growth and grazing (Antarctic microzooplankton )

» Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry (OCB)
Rose, JulieNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA-Milford)Principal Investigator
Hutchins, David A.University of Southern California (USC)Co-Principal Investigator
Kinkade, DanieWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI BCO-DMO)BCO-DMO Data Manager

Dataset Description

Experimental Design:

Experiments were conducted during the CORSACS (Controls On Ross Sea Algal Community Structure) expedition in November 2006 to the Ross Sea, Antarctica, onboard the RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer (cruise NBP-0608). Water was collected at 76 50' S, 173 47' E using a trace metal clean towed-intake surface water Teflon diaphragm pumping system (Bruland et al., 2005). Sea surface temperature at this location was -1.5 deg C at the time of water collection. Water was prescreened through acid-washed 200 um Nitex mesh to eliminate large zooplankton and collected into a 50-L mixing carboy. Collected water was gently mixed and dispensed into 24 4.5-L acid washed trace metal clean clear polycarbonate bottles for incubation. Four treatments were used with six replicates per treatment. Bottles were incubated in two temperature controlled deck-board incubators housed in deck vans under halogen lights (Feng et al., 2009; Hare et al., 2007). Irradiance was 2000 uE m2 s-1 without screening. Incubators were screened with neutral density filter and measured irradiances in the four treatments were:

Low light, low temperature (LLLT): 61 uE m2 s-1
Low light, high temperature treatment (LLHT): 45 uE m2 s-1
High light, low temperature (HLLT): 321 uE m2 s-1
High light, high temperature (HLHT): 320 uE m2 s-1

One incubator was maintained at 0 deg C, while the temperature in the other was gradually increased to 4 deg C over the course of 24 h. Bottles were incubated for eight days.  All sampling occurred under a laminar flow hood using trace metal clean techniques.

Bruland, K.W., E.L. Rue, G.J. Smith, and G.R. DiTullio. 2005. Iron, macronutrients and diatom blooms in the Peru upwelling regime: brown and blue waters of Peru. Marine Chemistry 93: 81-103.

Feng, Y., C.E. Hare, K. Leblanc, G.R. DiTullio, P.A. Lee, S.W. Wilhelm, J. Sun, J.M. Rose, N. Nemcek, I. Benner, and D.A. Hutchins. 2009. The effects of increased pCO2 and temperature on the North Atlantic Spring Bloom: I. The phytoplankton community and biogeochemical response. Marine Ecology Progress Series 388: 13-25.

Hare, C.E., K. Leblanc, G.R. DiTullio, R.M. Kudela, Y. Zhang, P.A. Lee, S.F. Riseman, and D.A. Hutchins. 2007. Consequences of increased temperature and CO2 for phytoplankton community structure in the Bering Sea. Marine Ecology Progress Series 352: 9-16.

Acquisition Description

Maximum quantum yield efficiency for PSII (Fv/Fm)
Photochemical efficiency of PSII was measured using a MBARI 4th generation bench-top fast repetition rate fluorometer (FRRF) (Kolber et al., 1994). Samples were collected each day from experimental bottles, immediately placed on ice and kept in low light conditions (5 - 10 mol photons m−2 s-1) for 30 - 40 min prior to analysis. The light and cuvette chamber were constantly flushed with dry nitrogen gas to avoid condensation on the exterior of the cuvette due to the temperature difference between the cold seawater and the laboratory air. Minimal (F0) and maximal (Fm) fluorescence and the effective absorption cross section (o'PSII) were calculated from each single turnover (ST) saturation curve. The maximum quantum yield efficiency for PSII (Fv/Fm) was calculated (Genty et al., 1989) by normalizing Fm by the difference between the fluorescence at saturation (Fm) and the minimum fluorescence (F0):

Genty, B., J.M. Briantais, and N.R. Baker. 1989. The relationship between the quantum yield of photosynthetic electron transport and quenching of chlorophyll fluorescence. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 990: 87-92.

Kolber, Z.S., R.T. Barber, K.H. Coale, S.E. Fitzwater, R.M. Greene, K.S. Johnson, S. Lindley, and G.P. Falkowski. 1994. Iron limitation of the phytoplankton photosynthesis in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Nature 371: 145-149.

Processing Description

BCO-DMO Processing Notes:

- File was sorted by treatment
- Added lat,lon values of original water sampling location to file
- Added BCO-DMO header lines
- Parameter names were edited to conform with BCO-DMO convention

[ table of contents | back to top ]


latLatitude component of geographic position where water was sampled. decimal degrees
lonLongitude component of geographic position where water was sampled. decimal degrees
treatmentExperimental conditions varied during the experiment. Four treatments were used: Low light, low temperature (LLLT); Low light, high temperature (LLHT); High light, low temperature (HLLT); High light, high temperature (HLHT) dimensionless
daySampling day during experiment.  The experiment was conducted during November, 2006. dimensionless
bottleExperimental bottle number. dimensionless
Fv_FmMaximum quantum yield (or photochemical) efficiency of Photosystem II (PSII). dimensionless

[ table of contents | back to top ]


Dataset-specific Instrument Name
Fast Repetition Rate Fluorometer
Generic Instrument Name
Fast Repetition Rate Fluorometer
Dataset-specific Description
Photochemical efficiency of PSII was measured using a MBARI 4th generation bench-top fast repetition rate fluorometer (FRRF) (Kolber et al., 1994)
Generic Instrument Description
An FRRf is used for measuring the fluorescence of a sample of phytoplankton photosynthetic competency (Fv/Fm).

[ table of contents | back to top ]



RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer
Start Date
End Date
This was the second of two Controls of Ross Sea Algal Community Structure (CORSACS) project cruises and was funded by the NSF Office of Polar Programs. The NBP0608 cruise was conducted in the Ross Sea in November and December 2006, ca. 65.21°S-78.65°S, 164.98°E-164.70°W. Related files: Cruise track map (PDF file) Related Sites: MGDS catalog:

[ table of contents | back to top ]

Project Information

Controls of Ross Sea Algal Community Structure (CORSACS)

Coverage: Ross Sea Southern Ocean

Project summary

The Controls of Ross Sea Algal Community Structure (CORSACS) project was funded by the NSF Office of Polar Programs as "Collaborative Research: Interactive Effects of Iron, Light and Carbon Dioxide on Phytoplankton Community Dynamics in the Ross Sea". Two cruises were completed in 2006 to investigate the interactions between the primary productivity of the Ross Sea and pCO2, iron and other trace elements. Data sets of carbon, nutrient, metal, and biological measurements will be reported.

The main objective in the proposed research was to investigate the relative importance and potential interactive effects of iron, light and CO2 levels in structuring algal assemblages and growth rates in the Ross Sea. The investigators hypothesized that the interaction of these three variables largely determines the bottom-up control on these two dominant Southern Ocean phytoplankton taxa. While grazing and other loss processes are important variables in determining the relative dominance of these two taxa, the CORSACS research project was designed to focus on the bottom-up control mechanisms. It is important to understand such environmentally-driven taxonomic shifts in primary production, since they are expected to impact the fixation and export of carbon and nutrients, and the production of DMS, thus potentially providing both positive and negative feedbacks on climate.

The CORSACS investigators considered a range of ambient iron, light and pCO2 levels that span those typically observed in the Ross Sea during the growing season. That is, dissolved iron ranging from ~0.1 nM (low iron) to greater than 1 nM (high iron) (Fitzwater et al. 2000; Sedwick et al. 2000); mean irradiance (resulting from vertical mixing/self shading) ranging from less than 10% Io (low light) to greater than 40% (high light) (Arrigo et al., 1998, 1999), possibly adjusted based on field observations during the CORSACS cruises; and pCO2 ranging (Sweeney et al. 2001) from ~150 ppm (low CO2) to the probable higher levels of pCO2 - 750 ppm as a conservative estimate - that are likely to be attained later this century due to anthropogenic perturbation of the global carbon cycle (IPCC, 2001).

From the information previously available from both field observations and experiments, the investigators formulated the following specific hypotheses regarding the interactive role of iron, light and CO2 in regulating algal composition in the Ross Sea: diatoms bloom in the southern Ross Sea only under optimum conditions of high iron, light and pCO2; colonial Phaeocystis dominate under conditions of high iron with either (or both) low light or low pCO2; and solitary Phaeocystis are predominant under conditions of low iron with either (or both) low light or low pCO2.


Fitzwater, S.E., K.S. Johnson, R.M. Gordon, K.H. Coale, and W.O. Smith, Jr. (2000). Trace metal concentrations in the Ross Sea and their relationship with nutrients and growth. Deep-Sea Research II, 47: 3159-3179.

Martin JH, Gordon RM, Fitzwater SE. Iron in Antarctic waters. Nature 1990 ;345(6271):156-158. Martin JH. 1990. Glacial-interglacial CO2 change: The iron hypothesis. Paleoceanography 5(1):1-13

P. N. Sedwick, G. R. DiTullio, and D. J. Mackey, Iron and manganese in the Ross Sea, Antarctica: Seasonal iron limitation in Antarctic shelf waters, Journal of Geophysical Research, 105 (C5), 11,321-11,336, 2000.

Sweeney, C. K. Arrigo, and G. van Gijken (2001). Prediction of seasonal changes in surface pCO2 in the Ross Sea, Antarctica using ocean color satellite data. 2001 Annual AGU meeting, San Fransisco, CA Dec. 10-15.

IPCC, 2001: Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report. A Contribution of Working Groups I, II, and III to the Third Assessment Report of theIntegovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Watson, R.T. and the Core Writing Team (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,United Kingdom, and New York, NY, USA, 398 pp.


Saito, M. A., Goepfert, T. J., Noble, A. E., Bertrand, E. M., Sedwick, P. N., and DiTullio, G. R.: A seasonal study of dissolved cobalt in the Ross Sea, Antarctica: micronutrient behavior, absence of scavenging, and relationships with Zn, Cd, and P, Biogeosciences, 7, 4059-4082, doi:10.5194/bg-7-4059-2010, 2010 (

Bertrand EM, Saito MA, Lee PA, Dunbar RB, Sedwick PN and DiTullio GR (2011) Iron limitation of a springtime bacterial and phytoplankton community in the Ross Sea: implications for vitamin B12 nutrition. Front. Microbio. 2:160. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2011.00160 (

Rising climatic temperatures impact on antarctic microzooplankton growth and grazing (Antarctic microzooplankton )

Coverage: Ross Sea

The investigator will examine to what extent rising climatic temperatures impact antarctic microzooplankton growth and grazing, and to what extent such an impact would modulate top-down control of phytoplankton growth in cold waters. The experimental part of the proposed work would take place in the Ross Sea, a permanently cold ecosystem, and the location of annual large-scale blooms of both diatoms and Phaeocystis antarctica. Changing climate regimes may alter current microzooplankton grazing rates on these blooms either directly through temperature increases or indirectly through algal community shifts. Complementary laboratory experiments on cultures of Antarctic microzooplankton will be conducted to determine the individual and combined effects of temperature and carbon dioxide levels on growth and grazing.

[ table of contents | back to top ]

Program Information

Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry (OCB)

Coverage: Global

The Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry (OCB) program focuses on the ocean's role as a component of the global Earth system, bringing together research in geochemistry, ocean physics, and ecology that inform on and advance our understanding of ocean biogeochemistry. The overall program goals are to promote, plan, and coordinate collaborative, multidisciplinary research opportunities within the U.S. research community and with international partners. Important OCB-related activities currently include: the Ocean Carbon and Climate Change (OCCC) and the North American Carbon Program (NACP); U.S. contributions to IMBER, SOLAS, CARBOOCEAN; and numerous U.S. single-investigator and medium-size research projects funded by U.S. federal agencies including NASA, NOAA, and NSF.

The scientific mission of OCB is to study the evolving role of the ocean in the global carbon cycle, in the face of environmental variability and change through studies of marine biogeochemical cycles and associated ecosystems.

The overarching OCB science themes include improved understanding and prediction of: 1) oceanic uptake and release of atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases and 2) environmental sensitivities of biogeochemical cycles, marine ecosystems, and interactions between the two.

The OCB Research Priorities (updated January 2012) include: ocean acidification; terrestrial/coastal carbon fluxes and exchanges; climate sensitivities of and change in ecosystem structure and associated impacts on biogeochemical cycles; mesopelagic ecological and biogeochemical interactions; benthic-pelagic feedbacks on biogeochemical cycles; ocean carbon uptake and storage; and expanding low-oxygen conditions in the coastal and open oceans.

[ table of contents | back to top ]


Funding SourceAward
NSF Antarctic Sciences (NSF ANT)

[ table of contents | back to top ]