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Abstract/ Summary

The complex effects of light, nutrients and temperature lead to a variable carbon to chlorophyll (C:Chl) ratio in phytoplankton cells. Using field data collected in the Equatorial Pacific, we derived a new dynamic model with a non-steady C:Chl ratio as a function of irradiance, nitrate, iron, and temperature. The dynamic model is implemented into a basin-scale ocean circulation-biogeochemistry model and tested in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean. The model reproduces well the general features of phytoplankton dynamics in this region. For instance, the simulated deep chlorophyll maximum (DCM) is much deeper in the western warm pool (similar to 100 m) than in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific (similar to 50 m). The model also shows the ability to reproduce chlorophyll, including not only the zonal, meridional and vertical variations, but also the interannual variability. This modeling study demonstrates that combination of nitrate and iron regulates the spatial and temporal variations in the phytoplankton C:Chl ratio in the Equatorial Pacific. Sensitivity simulations suggest that nitrate is mainly responsible for the high C:Chl ratio in the western warm pool while iron is responsible for the frontal features in the C:Chl ratio between the warm pool and the upwelling region. In addition, iron plays a dominant role in regulating the spatial and temporal variations of the C:Chl ratio in the Central and Eastern Equatorial Pacific. While temperature has a relatively small effect on the C:Chl ratio, light is primarily responsible for the vertical decrease of phytoplankton C:Chl ratio in the euphotic zone.

Citation/Publisher Attribution

Wang XJ, Behrenfeld M, Le Borgne R, Murtugudde R, Boss E. Regulation of Phytoplankton Carbon to Chlorophyll Ratio By Light, Nutrients and Temperature in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean: A Basin-Scale Model. Biogeosciences. 2009;6(3): 391-404.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.