Articles | Volume 4, issue 1
Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 4, 37–46, 2012

Special issue: MAREDAT – Towards a world atlas of marine plankton functional...

Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 4, 37–46, 2012

  29 Aug 2012

29 Aug 2012

Picophytoplankton biomass distribution in the global ocean

E. T. Buitenhuis1, W. K. W. Li2, D. Vaulot3, M. W. Lomas4, M. R. Landry5, F. Partensky3, D. M. Karl6, O. Ulloa7, L. Campbell8, S. Jacquet9, F. Lantoine10, F. Chavez11, D. Macias12, M. Gosselin13, and G. B. McManus14 E. T. Buitenhuis et al.
  • 1Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK
  • 2Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 3CNRS and UPMC, Paris 06, UMR7144, Station Biologique, 29680 Roscoff, France
  • 4Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, St. George's GE01, Bermuda, USA
  • 5Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
  • 6Department of Oceanography, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
  • 7Department of Oceanography, University of Concepción, Casilla 160-C, Concepción, Chile
  • 8Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA
  • 9INRA, UMR CARRTEL, 75 Avenue de Corzent, 74200 Thonon-les-Bains, France
  • 10UPMC Univ Paris 06, CNRS, LECOB, Observatoire Océanologique, 66650, Banyuls/Mer, France
  • 11MBARI, 7700 Sandholdt Rd, Moss Landing, CA 95039, USA
  • 12Department of Coastal Ecology and Management, Instituto de Ciencias Marinas de Andalucía (ICMAN-CSIC), Avd. Republica Saharaui s/n, CP11510, Puerto Real, Cádiz, Spain
  • 13Institut des sciences de la mer de Rimouski, Université du Québec à Rimouski, 310 Allée des Ursulines, Rimouski, Québec G5L 3A1, Canada
  • 14Department of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut, Groton, CT 06340, USA

Abstract. The smallest marine phytoplankton, collectively termed picophytoplankton, have been routinely enumerated by flow cytometry since the late 1980s during cruises throughout most of the world ocean. We compiled a database of 40 946 data points, with separate abundance entries for Prochlorococcus, Synechococcus and picoeukaryotes. We use average conversion factors for each of the three groups to convert the abundance data to carbon biomass. After gridding with 1° spacing, the database covers 2.4% of the ocean surface area, with the best data coverage in the North Atlantic, the South Pacific and North Indian basins, and at least some data in all other basins. The average picophytoplankton biomass is 12 ± 22 μg C l−1 or 1.9 g C m−2. We estimate a total global picophytoplankton biomass of 0.53–1.32 Pg C (17–39% Prochlorococcus, 12–15% Synechococcus and 49–69% picoeukaryotes), with an intermediate/best estimate of 0.74 Pg C. Future efforts in this area of research should focus on reporting calibrated cell size and collecting data in undersampled regions.