The craving for phosphorus in heterotrophic dinoflagellates and its potential implications for biogeochemical cycles

Cédric L. Meunier*, Santiago Alvarez-Fernandez, Alessandra Cunha-Dupont, Carla Geisen, Arne M. Malzahn, Maarten Boersma, Karen H. Wiltshire

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


By altering the nutritional quality of primary producers, nutrient availability indirectly influences herbivores' population dynamics. In turn, the resulting relationship between diet, growth, and wastes has consequences for nutrient cycling at the ecosystem level. We studied the link between dinoflagellates nutritional requirements and feeding behavior, and its influence on nutrient cycling. We show that long-term shifts in dissolved PO4 concentration in the North Sea are closely linked to biomass trends of heterotrophic dinoflagellates and support this observation with experimental data indicating particularly high phosphorus requirements in dinoflagellates. At the seasonal scale, we observe a negative correlation between natural dinoflagellate abundances and the concentration of dissolved P, and we estimate that, in spring, up to 30% of dissolved P can end up in microzooplankton biomass. Our study highlights that accounting for organismal metabolic requirement provides significant insight in interpreting and predicting nutrient cycles at the ecosystem level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1774-1784
Number of pages11
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science

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