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  1. Abstract

    In the California Current Ecosystem, upwelled water low in dissolved iron (Fe) can limit phytoplankton growth, altering the elemental stoichiometry of the particulate matter and dissolved macronutrients. Iron-limited diatoms can increase biogenic silica (bSi) content >2-fold relative to that of particulate organic carbon (C) and nitrogen (N), which has implications for carbon export efficiency given the ballasted nature of the silica-based diatom cell wall. Understanding the molecular and physiological drivers of this altered cellular stoichiometry would foster a predictive understanding of how low Fe affects diatom carbon export. In an artificial upwelling experiment, water from 96 m depth was incubated shipboard and left untreated or amended with dissolved Fe or the Fe-binding siderophore desferrioxamine-B (+DFB) to induce Fe-limitation. After 120 h, diatoms dominated the communities in all treatments and displayed hallmark signatures of Fe-limitation in the +DFB treatment, including elevated particulate Si:C and Si:N ratios. Single-cell, taxon-resolved measurements revealed no increase in bSi content during Fe-limitation despite higher transcript abundance of silicon transporters and silicanin-1. Based on these findings we posit that the observed increase in bSi relative to C and N was primarily due to reductions in C fixation and N assimilation, driven by lower transcript expression of key Fe-dependentmore »genes.

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  2. Diatoms are prominent eukaryotic phytoplankton despite being limited by the micronutrient iron in vast expanses of the ocean. As iron inputs are often sporadic, diatoms have evolved mechanisms such as the ability to store iron that enable them to bloom when iron is resupplied and then persist when low iron levels are reinstated. Two iron storage mechanisms have been previously described: the protein ferritin and vacuolar storage. To investigate the ecological role of these mechanisms among diatoms, iron addition and removal incubations were conducted using natural phytoplankton communities from varying iron environments. We show that among the predominant diatoms,Pseudo-nitzschiawere favored by iron removal and displayed unique ferritin expression consistent with a long-term storage function. Meanwhile,ChaetocerosandThalassiosiragene expression aligned with vacuolar storage mechanisms.Pseudo-nitzschiaalso showed exceptionally high iron storage under steady-state high and low iron conditions, as well as following iron resupply to iron-limited cells. We propose that bloom-forming diatoms use different iron storage mechanisms and that ferritin utilization may provide an advantage in areas of prolonged iron limitation with pulsed iron inputs. As iron distributions and availability change, this speculated ferritin-linked advantage may result in shifts in diatom community composition that can alter marine ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles.