Phosphorus, nitrogen and chlorophyll-a are significant factors controlling ciliate communities in summer in the northern Beibu Gulf, South China Sea

Yibo Wang, Wenjing Zhang, Yuanshao Lin, Wenqing Cao, Lianming Zheng, Jun Yang
PloS One 2014, 9 (7): e101121
Ciliates (protozoa) are ubiquitous components of plankton community and play important roles in aquatic ecosystems in regards of their abundance, biomass, diversity and energy turnover. Based on the stratified samples collected from the northern Beibu Gulf in August 2011, species composition, abundance, biomass, diversity and spatial pattern of planktonic ciliates were studied. Furthermore the main environmental factors controlling ciliate communities were determined. A total of 101 species belonging to 44 genera and 7 orders (i.e., Oligotrichida, Haptorida, Euplotida, Sessilida, Pleurostomatida, Scuticociliatida and Tintinnida) were identified. The variation of ciliate communities was significant at horizontal level, but that was not at vertical level. Based on cluster analysis, ciliate communities were divided into three main groups. Redundancy analysis (RDA) revealed that Group A, existing in the waters with higher concentration of phosphorus and nitrogen, was dominated by Tintinnidium primitivum. Group B in the waters with lower temperature and chlorophyll-a concentration, was dominated by Leegaardiella ovalis. Group C, existing in the waters with higher temperature and chlorophyll-a concentration, was dominated by large Strombidium spp. and Mesodinium rubrum. Combining multiple analytic methods, our results strongly supported that phosphorus, nitrogen and chlorophyll-a were the most significant factors affecting the ciliate communities in the northern Beibu Gulf in summer. Concentration of phosphorus and nitrogen primarily influenced ciliate biomass, implying a potential impact of eutrophication on ciliate growth. The correlation with chlorophyll-a concentration, on one hand indicate the response of ciliates to the food availability, and on the other hand, the ciliates containing chloroplasts or endosymbionts may contribute greatly to the chlorophyll-a.

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