The importance of phytoplankton size in mediating trophic interactions within the plankton of a southern African estuary

Froneman, P.W. (2006) The importance of phytoplankton size in mediating trophic interactions within the plankton of a southern African estuary. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 70 (4). pp. 693-700. ISSN 0272-7714

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2006.07.008

Abstract

The influence of the phytoplankton size composition in mediating the trophic interactions between the bacteria, phytoplankton, microheterotrophs (<200 μm) and mesozooplankton (>200 μm) was investigated on three occasions in a warm temperate, temporarily open/closed estuary situated along the southern African coastline. Results of the investigation indicated that the microheterotrophs represented the most important consumers of bacteria and chlorophyll (chl)-a <5.0 μm. The low impact of the mesozooplankton on the bacteria and chl-a <5.0 μm during the study appeared to be related to the inability of the larger zooplankton to feed efficiently on small particles. During those periods when total chl-a concentration was dominated by picophytoplankton (<2.0 μm) and microphytoplankton (>20 μm), mesozooplankton were unable to feed efficiently on the chl-a due to feeding constraints. In response to the unfavorable size structure of the phytoplankton assemblages, mesozooplankton appeared to consume the microheterotrophs. The negative impact of the mesozooplankton on the microheterotrophs resulted in a decrease in the impact of these organisms on the bacteria and the chl-a <5.0 μm. This result is consistent with the predator-prey cascades. On the other hand, when the total chl-a was dominated by nanophytoplankton (2–20 μm), mesozooplankton were able to feed directly on the phytoplankton. Results of the study indicate that size structure of the phytoplankton assemblages within estuaries plays an important role in mediating the trophic interactions between the various components of the plankton food web.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:phytoplankton; plankton; intermittently open/closed estuary; trophic cascading
Subjects:Y Unknown > Subjects to be assigned
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Zoology & Entomology
ID Code:501
Deposited By: Mrs Eileen Shepherd
Deposited On:09 Jan 2007
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:18
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