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Keywords:

  • biochemical composition;
  • diatom;
  • elemental stoichiometry;
  • lipid classes;
  • nitrogen;
  • nutrient limitation;
  • phosphorus;
  • silicon;
  • Stephanodiscus minutulus

The objective of this study was to examine the differences in the biochemical and elemental stoichiometry of a freshwater centric diatom, Stephanodiscus minutulus (Grun.), under various nutrient regimes. Stephanodiscus minutulus was grown at μmax or 22% of μmax under limitation by silicon, nitrogen, or phosphorus. Cell sizes for nutrient-limited cultures were significantly smaller than the non-limited cell sizes, with N-limited cells being significantly smaller than all other treatments. Compared with the nutrient-replete treatment, both carbohydrates and lipids increased in Si- and P-limited cells, whereas carbohydrates increased but proteins decreased in N-limited cells. All of the growth-limited cells showed an increase of carbohydrate and triglyceride, and a decrease of cell size and polar lipids as a percentage of total lipids. The non-limited cells also had a significantly higher chl a concentration and galactolipids as a percentage of total lipids than any of the limited treatments, and the low-Si and low-P cells had significantly higher values than the low-N cells. The particulate C concentrations showed significant differences between treatments, with the Si- and P-limited treatments being significantly higher than the N- and non-limited treatments. Particulate Si did not show a strong relationship with any of the parameters measured, and it was the only parameter with no differences between treatments. The low-Si cells had a significantly higher P content (about two times more) than any other treatment, presumably owing to the luxury consumption of P, and a correspondingly high phospholipid concentration. The elemental data showed that S. minutulus had a high P demand with low optimum N:P (4) and Si:P (10) ratios and a C:N:P ratio of 109:16:2.3. The particulate C showed a positive relationship with POM (r = 0.93), dry weight (r = 0.88), lipid (r = 0.87) and protein (r = 0.84, all P < 0.0001). Particulate N showed a positive relationship with galactolipids (r = 0.95), protein (r = 0.90), dry weight (r = 0.78), lipid (r = 0.75), and cell volume (r = 0.64, all P < 0.0001). It is evident that nutrient limitation in the freshwater diatom S. minutulus has pronounced effects on its biochemical and elemental stoichiometry.