Small pigmented eukaryote assemblages of the western tropical North Atlantic around the Amazon River plume during spring discharge
Small pigmented eukaryotes (⩽ 5 µm) are an important, but overlooked component of global marine phytoplankton. The Amazon River plume delivers nutrients into the oligotrophic western tropical North Atlantic, shades the deeper waters, and drives the structure of microphytoplankton (> 20 µm) communities. For small pigmented eukaryotes, however, diversity and distribution in the region remain unknown, despite their significant contribution to open ocean primary production and other biogeochemical processes. To investigate how habitats created by the Amazon river plume shape small pigmented eukaryote communities, we used high-throughput sequencing of the 18S ribosomal RNA genes from up to five distinct small pigmented eukaryote cell populations, identified and sorted by flow cytometry. Small pigmented eukaryotes dominated small phytoplankton biomass across all habitat types, but the population abundances varied among stations resulting in a random distribution. Small pigmented eukaryote communities were consistently dominated by Chloropicophyceae (0.8–2 µm) and Bacillariophyceae (0.8–3.5 µm), accompanied by MOCH-5 at the surface or by Dinophyceae at the chlorophyll maximum. Taxonomic composition only displayed differences in the old plume core and at one of the plume margin stations. Such results reflect the dynamic interactions of the plume and offshore oceanic waters and suggest that the resident small pigmented eukaryote diversity was not strongly affected by habitat types at this time of the year.
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