Nitrogen and phosphorus limitation of oceanic microbial growth during spring in the Gulf of Aqaba

David J. Suggett, Noga Stambler, Ondrej Prášil, Zbigniew Kolber, Antonietta Quigg, Evaristo Vázquez-Dominguez, Tamar Zohary, Tom Berman, David Iluz, Orly Levitan, Tracy Lawson, Efrat Meeder, Boaz Lazar, Edo Bar-Zeev, Hana Medova, Ilana Berman-Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bioassay experiments were performed to identify how growth of key groups within the microbial community was simultaneously limited by nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) availability during spring in the Gulf of Aqaba's oceanic waters. Measurements of chlorophyll a (chl a) concentration and fast repetition rate (FRR) fluorescence generally demonstrated that growth of obligate phototrophic phytoplankton was co-limited by N and P and growth of facultative aerobic anoxygenic photoheterotropic (AAP) bacteria was limited by N. Phytoplankton exhibited an increase in chl a biomass over 24 to 48 h upon relief of nutrient limitation. This response coincided with an increase in photosystem II (PSII) photochemical efficiency (F v /F m), but was preceded (within 24 h) by a decrease in effective absorption crosssection (σPSII) and electron turnover time (τ). A similar response for τ and bacterio-chl a was observed for the AAPs. Consistent with the up-regulation of PSII activity with FRR fluorescence were observations of newly synthesized PSII reaction centers via low temperature (77K) fluorescence spectroscopy for addition of N (and N + P). Flow cytometry revealed that the chl a and thus FRR fluorescence responses were partly driven by the picophytoplankton (æ10 μm) community, and in particular Synechococcus. Productivity of obligate heterotrophic bacteria exhibited the greatest increase in response to a natural (deep water) treatment, but only a small increase in response to N and P addition, demonstrating the importance of additional substrates (most likely dissolved organic carbon) in moderating the heterotrophs. These data support previous observations that the microbial community response (autotrophy relative to heterotrophy) is critically dependent upon the nature of transient nutrient enrichment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-239
Number of pages13
JournalAquatic Microbial Ecology
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Aerobic anoxygenic photoheterotroph
  • Bacterial
  • Chlorophyll a
  • Fast repetition rate fluorometry
  • Gulf of aqaba
  • Nutrient limitation
  • Phytoplankton

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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