Trophic interactions among the heterotrophic components of plankton in man-made peat pools
Man-made peat pools are permanent freshwater habitats developed due to non-commercial man-made peat extraction. Yet, they have not been widely surveyed in terms of ecosystem functioning, mainly regarding the complexity of heterotrophic components of the plankton. In this study we analysed distribution and trophic interrelations among heterotrophic plankton in man-made peat pools located in different types of peatbogs. We found that peat pools showed extreme differences in environmental conditions that occurred to be important drivers of distribution of microplankton and metazooplankton. Abundance of bacteria and protozoa showed significant differences, whereas metazooplankton was less differentiated in density among peat pools. In all peat pools stress-tolerant species of protozoa and metazoa were dominant. In each peat pool five trophic functional groups were distinguished. The abundance of lower functional trophic groups (bacteria, heterotrophic nanoflagellates (HNF) and ciliates feeding on bacteria and HNF) was weakly influenced by environmental drivers and was highly stable in all peat pool types. Higher functional trophic groups (naupli, omnivorous and carnivorous ciliates, cladocerans, adult copepods and copepodites) were strongly influenced by environmental variables and exhibited lower stability. Our study contributes to comprehensive knowledge of the functioning of peat bogs, as our results have shown that peat pools are characterized by high stability of the lowest trophic levels, which can be crucial for energy transfer and carbon flux through food webs.
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