Abundance of the iron containing biomolecule, heme b, during the progression of a spring phytoplankton bloom in a mesocosm experiment

Jessica Bellworthy, Martha Gledhill, Mario Esposito, Eric P. Achterberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Concentrations of heme b were determined in a mesocosm experiment situated in Gullmar Fjord off Sweden. The mesocosm experiment lasted for ca. one hundred days and was characterised by the growth of a primary nutrient replete and a secondary nutrient deplete phytoplankton bloom. Heme b varied between 40 ± 10 pmol L-1 in the prebloom period up to a maximum of 700 ± 400 pmol L-1 just prior to the time of the primary chlorophyll a maximum. Thereafter, heme b concentrations decreased again to an average of 120 ± 60 pmol L-1. When normalised to total particulate carbon, heme b was most abundant during the initiation of the nutrient replete spring bloom, when ratios reached 52 ± 24 μmol mol-1; ten times higher than values observed both pre and post the primary bloom. Concentrations of heme b correlated with those of chlorophyll a. Nevertheless, differences were observed in the relative concentrations of the two parameters, with heme b concentrations increasing relative to chlorophyll a during the growth of the primary bloom, decreasing over the period of the secondary bloom and increasing again through the latter period of the experiment. Heme b abundance was therefore influenced by nutrient concentrations and also likely by changing community composition. In half of the mesocosms, pCO2 was elevated and maintained at ca.1000 μatm, however we observed no significant differences between heme b in plus or ambient pCO2 mesocosms, either in absolute terms, or relative to total particulate carbon and chlorophyll a. The results obtained in this study contribute to our understanding of the distribution of this significant component of the biogenic iron pool, and provide an iron replete coastal water end member that AIDS the interpretation of the distributions of heme b in more iron deplete open ocean waters.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0176268
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Bellworthy et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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