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Nature of Phosphorus Limitation in the Ultraoligotrophic Eastern Mediterranean

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Science  12 Aug 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5737, pp. 1068-1071
DOI: 10.1126/science.1112632

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Abstract

Phosphate addition to surface waters of the ultraoligotrophic, phosphorus-starved eastern Mediterranean in a Lagrangian experiment caused unexpected ecosystem responses. The system exhibited a decline in chlorophyll and an increase in bacterial production and copepod egg abundance. Although nitrogen and phosphorus colimitation hindered phytoplankton growth, phosphorous may have been transferred through the microbial food web to copepods via two, not mutually exclusive, pathways: (i) bypass of the phytoplankton compartment by phosphorus uptake in heterotrophic bacteria and (ii) tunnelling, whereby phosphate luxury consumption rapidly shifts the stoichiometric composition of copepod prey. Copepods may thus be coupled to lower trophic levels through interactions not usually considered.

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