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Temporal changes in phytoplankton biomass and cellular properties; implications for the IMO ballast water convention

Trindade de Castro, Maria Cecilia, Veldhuis, Marcel J. W.
Environmental technology 2019 v.40 no.11 pp. 1455-1466
ballast water, biomass, chlorophyll, filtration, fractionation, phytoplankton, temporal variation, English Channel, Netherlands, North Sea, United Kingdom
In the Wadden Sea, the Netherlands, and at L4 in the English Channel, UK, the size class distribution of phytoplankton was investigated with respect to the size range >10–≤50 µm identified by the IMO Ballast Water Convention. Size fractionation using 10 µm mesh filtration showed considerable size bias; 23.1% of >10 µm cells were still present in the <10 µm, but 21.8% of the smaller size cells were also retained on the mesh, resulting in an overestimated number of cells/mL by as much as a factor of 5.4. Flowcytometry measurements indicated that the phytoplankton in the size range 2–50 µm was dominated by the smaller size (<10 µm) at both sites. For the >10–≤50 µm size, these were on average 3.6% and 2% in the Wadden Sea and at L4, respectively. In terms of chlorophyll biomass, they represented 28.7% and 12%, respectively. The filtration method resulted in much higher chlorophyll values for 10–50 µm size range: 53.7% in the Wadden Sea and 38% at L4. This overestimation appears to be caused by cells in 6–10 µm size range being retained on the mesh. These findings are relevant in the context of the size class distribution based on flowcytometry and semi-quantification using chlorophyll as proxy for cell density.