Individual Cell Based Traits Obtained by Scanning Flow-Cytometry Show Selection by Biotic and Abiotic Environmental Factors during a Phytoplankton Spring Bloom

F. Pomati, N.J.B. Kraft, T. Posch, B. Eugster, J. Jokela, B.W. Ibelings

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Abstract

In ecology and evolution, the primary challenge in understanding the processes that shape biodiversity is to assess the relationship between the phenotypic traits of organisms and the environment. Here we tested for selection on physio-morphological traits measured by scanning flow-cytometry at the individual level in phytoplankton communities under a temporally changing biotic and abiotic environment. Our aim was to study how high-frequency temporal changes in the environment influence biodiversity dynamics in a natural community. We focused on a spring bloom in Lake Zurich (Switzerland), characterized by rapid changes in phytoplankton, water conditions, nutrients and grazing (mainly mediated by herbivore ciliates). We described bloom dynamics in terms of taxonomic and trait-based diversity and found that diversity dynamics of trait-based groups were more pronounced than those of identified phytoplankton taxa. We characterized the linkage between measured phytoplankton traits, abiotic environmental factors and abundance of the main grazers and observed weak but significant correlations between changing abiotic and biotic conditions and measured size-related and fluorescence-related traits. We tested for deviations in observed community-wide distributions of focal traits from random patterns and found evidence for both clustering and even spacing of traits, occurring sporadically over the time series. Patterns were consistent with environmental filtering and phenotypic divergence under herbivore pressure, respectively. Size-related traits showed significant even spacing during the peak of herbivore abundance, suggesting that morphology-related traits were under selection from grazing. Pigment distribution within cells and colonies appeared instead to be associated with acclimation to temperature and water chemistry. We found support for trade-offs among grazing resistance and environmental tolerance traits, as well as for substantial periods of dynamics in which our measured traits were not under selection.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere71677
JournalPLoS One
Volume8
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Keywords

  • international

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