Prochlorococcus growth rate and contribution to primary production in the equatorial and subtropical North Pacific Ocean Academic Article uri icon


  • DNA synthesis and cell division of Prochlorococcus are tightly synchronized to the daily light cycle, therefore, cell division rates can be estimated from the fraction of cells in each cell cycle stage during a 24 h sampling period. The total mortality rate of Prochlorococcus can also be estimated from the difference between the observed cell abundance and the expected cell number projected from growth rate in that sampling period, providing an estimate of grazing impact. Growth and mortality rates of Prochlorococcus were investigated at 2 stations in the equatorial Pacific, as well as Station ALOHA in the subtropical North Pacific Ocean. Growth rate of Prochlorococcus remained high at all sites independent of the nitrate concentration. The maximum growth rate (up to 1 doubling d-1) occurred at 70 m depth at the western equatorial Pacific site (166 E) and at 40 to 45 m at the eastern equatorial Pacific site (150 W) and at Station ALOHA (22 45 N, 158 W). Total mortality rates were roughly balanced by Prochlorococcus growth at all stations. Because of the phased cell cycle and continuous (if not evenly distributed) mortality, the abundance of Prochlorococcus at each depth could vary up to 2-fold between afternoon and midnight. Prochlorococcus production was estimated to contribute 9 and 39% to the total gross primary production in the eastern and western equatorial Pacific, respectively, and up to 82% in the subtropical North Pacific Ocean at Station ALOHA. Our results suggest Prochlorococcus are not severely nutrient-limited in the oligotrophic environment. Rapid nutrient recycling by grazing activity permits Prochlorococcus to contribute a significant fraction of the total primary production. Inter-Research 1997.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Liu, H. B., Nolla, H. A., & Campbell, L.

citation count

  • 267

complete list of authors

  • Liu, HB||Nolla, HA||Campbell, L

publication date

  • January 1997