Global biogeochemical impacts of phytoplankton: a trait‐based perspective
Summary Phytoplankton are key players in the global carbon cycle, contributing about half of global primary productivity. Within the phytoplankton, functional groups (characterized by distinct traits) have impacts on other major biogeochemical cycles, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and silica. Changes in phytoplankton community structure, resulting from the unique environmental sensitivities of these groups, may significantly alter elemental cycling from local to global scales. We review key traits that distinguish major phytoplankton functional groups, how they affect biogeochemistry and how the links between community structure and biogeochemical cycles are modelled. Finally, we explore how global environmental change will affect phytoplankton communities, from the traits of individual species to the relative abundance of functional groups, and how that, in turn, may alter biogeochemical cycles. Synthesis. We can increase our mechanistic understanding of the links between the community structure of primary producers and biogeochemistry by focusing on traits determining functional group responses to the environment (response traits) and their biogeochemical functions (effect traits). Identifying trade-offs including allometric and phylogenetic constraints among traits will help parameterize predictive biogeochemical models, enhancing our ability to anticipate the consequences of global change.
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