Seasonal variations in planktonic community structure and production in an Atlantic coastal pond: the importance of nanoflagellates

C Dupuy, M Ryckaert, S Le Gall, H J Hartmann
Microbial Ecology 2007, 53 (4): 537-48
The structure and summertime production of planktonic communities and the role of nondiatom planktonic cells were studied in coastal ponds, which are areas traditionally used for fattening and greening table-sized oysters. The abundance and biomass of nano-microplanktonic protists were determined at weekly intervals between February 1998 and February 1999 in a coastal pond without oysters in the French Atlantic coast near La Rochelle. The production of these microbiotas was determined in the summer period. The structure of plankton communities revealed the following observations: (1) microphytoplanktonic cells were mostly diatoms and dinoflagellates, (2) microzooplanktonic cells were mainly ciliates, and (3) nanoplanktonic cells were represented by pigmented (80-90% of the nanoplankton biomass) and colorless nanoflagellates. Diatoms were dominated by Naviculiineae. Dinoflagellates were dominated by Peridiniales. Oligotrichida were predominant in the ciliate community. Protist biomass levels were nine times higher from April to August (summer period 1033 microg C L(-1)) than from September to March (winter period 114 microg C L(-1)). Whatever the season, nanoflagellates were dominant in the water column (66 and 53% of the entire protist biomass in the summer and winter periods, respectively). Nanoflagellates represented the highest production of nano-microplanktonic communities (76% of carbon protist production) in the coastal pond in summer and showed the shortest generation time (7.1 h). Dinoflagellates came after nanoflagellates in production (19.5% of carbon protist production). Diatoms represented only a supplementary carbon resource available for higher trophic levels, whereas, until now, they were considered as the principal food of oysters in coastal ponds. Ciliates were a small source of carbon, but their growth rate was high. We suggest, first, that nanoflagellates represented the primary resource available in the pond and could constitute an important food resource for higher trophic levels, such as oysters, farmed in this type of pond. Overall, the system appeared to be more autotrophic than heterotrophic. Because inorganic nutrients are quickly exhausted in a semiclosed pond, pigmented flagellates dominated the carbon biomass, production and biomass of bacteria were high (thus, the microbial food web appeared to be active in this pond), and mixotrophy seemed to be an important trophic mode there.

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