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Keywords:

  • arctic lakes;
  • bioassays;
  • cyanobacteria;
  • HPLC;
  • mats;
  • nutrients;
  • photosynthesis;
  • phytoplankton;
  • pigments

We investigated the fine pigment structure and composition of phytoplankton and benthic cyanobacterial mats in Ward Hunt Lake at the northern limit of High Arctic Canada and the responses of these two communities to in situ nutrient enrichment. The HPLC analyses showed that more than 98% of the total pigment stocks occurred in the benthos. The phytoplankton contained Chrysophyceae, low concentrations of other protists and Cyanobacteria (notably picocyanobacteria), and the accessory pigments chl c2, fucoxanthin, diadinoxanthin, violaxanthin, and zeaxanthin. The benthic community contained the accessory pigments chl b, chl c2, and a set of carotenoids dominated by glycosidic xanthophylls, characteristic of filamentous cyanobacteria. The black surface layer of the mats was rich in the UV-screening compounds scytonemin, red scytonemin-like, and mycosporine-like amino acids, and the blue-green basal stratum contained high concentrations of light-harvesting pigments. In a first bioassay of the benthic mats, there was no significant photosynthetic or growth response to inorganic carbon or full nutrient enrichment over 15 days. This bioassay was repeated with increased replication and HPLC analysis in a subsequent season, and the results confirmed the lack of significant response to added nutrients. In contrast, the phytoplankton in samples from the overlying water column responded strongly to enrichment, and chl a biomass increased by a factor of 19.2 over 2 weeks. These results underscore the divergent ecophysiology of benthic versus planktonic communities in extreme latitudes and show that cold lake ecosystems can be dominated by benthic phototrophs that are nutrient sufficient despite their ultraoligotrophic overlying waters.