A high-throughput method for measuring growth and loss rates in microalgal cultures

Birger Skjelbred*, Bente Edvardsen, Tom Andersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


A miniaturized and low-cost assay for algal growth and loss rates, and estimation of compensation light was developed and optimized. Microalgal cultures were grown in white 96-well microplates to estimate specific growth rates at six temperatures, five salinities and eight light levels. Data from black 24-well microplates at six temperatures, five salinities and five light conditions were used in addition to estimate loss rates and compensation light. Absorption and reflection of light were different in the white and black microplates. Growth rates were estimated from daily in vivo fluorescence (IVF) measurements using a microplate reader fitted with a fluorometer. To validate the microplate algal growth assay, IVF was compared with cell counting by flow cytometry. Maximal growth rate for the test alga Pseudochattonella farcimen (Heterokonta) was estimated to 0. 52 ± 0. 05 day -1 at optimal temperatures ranging from 9 to 14°C and salinities 18-26 psu. Lowest value of compensation light as photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) was 4. 2 ± 1. 2 μmol photons m -2 s -1, and lowest saturation light, 34. 1 ± 3. 7 μmol photons m -2 s -1, was observed in the temperature range 5-11°C and salinity range 23-28 psu. Minimum loss rate was obtained at temperatures 5-8°C and salinities 26-31 psu. Blooms of P. farcimen have been recorded in nature under conditions similar to those minimizing loss rates rather than maximizing growth rates in this study. The microalgal assay described here allows for a large number of conditions to be tested, and accurate optimal conditions for growth and loss rates to be obtained.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1589-1599
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Phycology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Compensation light
  • Growth rates
  • Light
  • Loss rates
  • Microplates
  • Phytoplankton
  • Salinity
  • Saturating light
  • Temperature


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