The 24 hour recovery kinetics from n starvation in Phaeodactylum tricornutum and Emiliania huxleyi. Academic Article uri icon


  • The response of N (nitrate) starved cells of the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum and the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi to a pulse of new N were measured to investigate rapid cellular and photosynthetic recovery kinetics. The changes of multiple parameters were followed over 24h. In P.tricornutum, the recovery of Fv /Fm (the maximum quantum yield of PS II) and PSII (the functional absorption cross-section for PSII) started within the first hour, much earlier than other parameters. Cellular pigments did not recover during the 24h but the chlorophyll (chl) a/carotenoid ratios increased to levels measured in the controls. Cell division was independent of the recovery of chl a. In E.huxleyi, the recovery of Fv /Fm and PSII started after an hour, synchronous with the increase in cellular organic N and chl a with pigments fully recovered within 14h. P.tricornutum prioritized the recovery of its photosynthetic functions and cell divisions while E.huxleyi did not follow this pattern. We hypothesize that the different recovery strategies between the two species allow P.tricornutum to be more competitive when N pulses are introduced into N-limited water while E.huxleyi is adapted to N scarce waters where such pulses are infrequent. These findings are consistent with successional patterns observed in coastal environments. This is one of only a few studies exploring recovery kinetics of cellular functions and photosynthesis after nitrogen stress in phytoplankton. Our results can be used to enhance ecological models linking phytoplankton traits to species diversity and community structure.

published proceedings

  • J Phycol

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhao, Y., Wang, Y., & Quigg, A.

citation count

  • 12

editor list (cited editors)

  • Mock, T.

publication date

  • January 2015