Climate change has a strong impact on phytoplankton communities and water quality. However, the development of robust techniques to assess phytoplankton growth is still in progress. In this study, the growth rate of phytoplankton cells grown at different temperatures was modelled based on conventional physiological traits (e.g. chlorophyll, carbon and photosynthetic parameters) using the partial least square regression (PLSR) algorithm and compared with a new approach combining Fourier transform infrared-spectroscopy and PLSR. In this second model, it is assumed that the macromolecular composition of phytoplankton cells represents an intracellular marker for growth. The models have comparable high predictive power (R2 > 0.8) and low error in predicting new observations. Interestingly, not all of the predictors present the same weight in the modelling of growth rate. A set of specific parameters, such as non-photochemical fluorescence quenching (NPQ) and the quantum yield of carbon production in the first model, and lipid, protein and carbohydrate contents for the second one, strongly covary with cell growth rate regardless of the taxonomic position of the phytoplankton species investigated. This reflects a set of specific physiological adjustments covarying with growth rate, conserved among taxonomically distant algal species that might be used as guidelines for the improvement of modern primary production models. The high predictive power of both sets of cellular traits for growth rate is of great importance for applied phycological studies. Our approach may find application as a quality control tool for the monitoring of phytoplankton populations in natural communities or in photobioreactors.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3670210.
- Received September 5, 2016.
- Accepted January 6, 2017.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.