Water samples, taken from station El in the English Channel, were incubated in 12–1 bottles and monitored for nine days. The distribution pattern of photosynthetically incorporated 14C was followed in three different size-fractions (0·2–2 μm, 2–10 μm and >10 μm) during the development of a bloom.
A rapid increase in chlorophyll was observed just after enclosure, the highest values being reached by day 5, when a mixed community of diatoms and small flagellates formed the bulk of phytoplankton biomass. As the bloom developed, nutrients were depleted and, consequently, a decay of the phytoplankton populations occurred. Growth rates, estimated as chlorophyll-specific production rate, were higher for the largest size-fraction (0·53 d−1) than for the intermediate and smallest ones (0·32 d−1 for both).
Throughout the bloom, the proportions of 14C incorporated into protein and low molecular weight metabolites (LMWM) were small, whereas the synthesis of storage products appeared to be enhanced. Carbon fixed into protein was higher during the exponential growth phase in all size-fractions, and incorporation into LMWM increased sharply when the bloom declined. Storage product synthesis varied between size-fractions.
A close relationship was observed between growth rates, estimated as chlorophyll-specific production rate, and the protein/metabolite synthesis ratio (r2=0·90; n=24). These results suggest that, within the range of environmental variation we studied, this ratio would be a good estimator of growth rate for field studies.