Potential for increased nutrient uptake by flocculating diatoms

B. E. Logan, A. L. Alldredge

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67 Scopus citations


Blooms of chain-forming diatoms commonly flocculate into centimeter-sized aggregates of living, vegetative cells following nutrient depletion in surface waters off southern California. We examined the hypothesis that diatom cells within aggregates experience increased nutrient uptake relative to unattached cells. We measured in situ settling velocities of 49 to 190 m d-1 and calculated porosities of 0.99931 to 0.99984 (±>0.03%) for 12, newly-formed diatom flocs ranging from 0.19 to 4.2 cm3 in volume and 7 to 22 mm in equivalent spherical diameter. Using permeability-porosity relationships, we calculated intra-aggregate flow velocities of 20 to 160 μm s-1. Although subject to considerable uncertainty, a Relative Uptake Factor analysis based on mass transfer equqtions suggests that diatoms fixed within aggregates undergoing gravitational settling can take up nutrients up to 2.1±0.4 times faster than unattached diatoms experiencing laminar shear. Increased nutrient uptake by aggregated diatoms may be importan in understanding the reasons for diatom floc formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-450
Number of pages8
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 1989

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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