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Effects of the bloom of harmful benthic dinoflagellate Ostreopsis cf. ovata on the microphytobenthos community in the northern Adriatic Sea

Stefano Accoroni, Tiziana Romagnoli, Salvatore Pichierri, Cecilia Totti
Harmful Algae 2016, 55: 179-190
Composition and temporal variation of the microphytobenthos communities of the Conero Riviera (northern Adriatic Sea) were investigated in the course of an annual cycle, focusing on their relationships with blooms of the benthic dinoflagellate Ostreopsis cf. ovata. Sampling was carried out from March 2009 to March 2010 on undisturbed benthic substrata (macroalgae and pebbles). Samples for the study of microphytobenthos were collected with a monthly frequency, while those for the study of Ostreopsis bloom weekly. Benthic diatoms dominated the microphytobenthos communities for most of the annual cycle (except the summer), both in terms of abundance and biomass. In summer, cyanobacteria were dominant (54.04±9.18 and 24.29±11.11% of total abundance and biomass, respectively), while benthic dinoflagellates were an important component of the community in terms of biomass only at the peak of the Ostreopsis bloom in late summer (up to 91% of the total biomass). Among diatoms, the most abundant forms throughout the year were motile species (77.5±3.71% of the population), while erect diatoms formed the majority of the biomass in winter and spring (48.66±16.66 and 48.05±5.56% of total population, respectively). Diatoms were mainly affected by DIN availability, while the patterns of biomass of O. cf. ovata and cyanobacteria were related to salinity and temperature. The biomass of Ostreopsis was also affected by the availability of phosphorus. The results of this study suggest that the proliferation of Ostreopsis affected the structure of the benthic diatom community: motile diatoms were significantly more abundant during the Ostreopsis bloom peak than during the rest of summer, probably because they benefited from the abundant mucilaginous mat covering the benthic substrata. In the course of the O. cf. ovata bloom the diversity of the microphytobenthos was significantly lower than during the rest of the year, suggesting an influence of both the shading produced by the mucous mat and allelopathic compounds possibly produced by O. cf. ovata.


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