Initial size structure of natural phytoplankton communities determines the response to Daphnia diel vertical migration
AbstractDiel vertical migration (DVM) is a common behavior of many pelagic herbivorous zooplankton species in response to predation pressure. It is characterized by a twice daily habitat shift of the zooplankton species: staying in the epilimnion only during night time and migrating down in the crack of dawn in deeper water layers, staying there during the day time. This causes a discontinuous grazing regime and previous studies have shown that the direction and strength of phytoplankton community responses to zooplankton DVM most probably depends on the size of phytoplankton species. To examine the influence of zooplankton DVM on different sized phytoplankton communities, we designed an experiment where we manipulated the size distribution of a natural phytoplankton community a priori in field mesocosms. We investigated the influence of DVM of the cladoceran Daphnia hyalina on two different phytoplankton communities, by the use of deep (10 m) field enclosures. Epilimnetic lake water, containing a summer phytoplankton community, was filtered with two different mesh sizes (11 mm and 64 mm). The 11 mm phytoplankton community (“small”) contained mainly small algal species, while the 64 mm community (“large”) had a wider range of phytoplankton sizes. To simulate zooplankton DVM, D. hyalina were placed in mesh cages that were lowered or raised (“migration”) as dictated by the study design; a “no migration” (representing absence of DVM) treatment was also tested. Phytoplankton abundance was measured using chlorophyll-a and biovolume; size distribution of the algae and nutrient availability was also determined in each treatment. The results indicated that DVM had contrasting effects on the two evaluated phytoplankton communities. Comparison of “migration” and “no migration” zooplankton treatments showed that nutrient availability and total phytoplankton biovolume was higher in (1) “no migration” treatments with phytoplankton communities comprising mainly small algae and (2) “migration” treatments with phytoplankton communities of a broader size spectrum of algae. Hence our study showed two different mechanisms of how zooplankton DVM may influence the phytoplankton community dynamics. Nutrient cycling was an important factor in phytoplankton communities of mainly small algae, whereas the refuge effect was the main driver of phytoplankton dynamics in phytoplankton communities of a large size spectrum of algae.
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