AEI 6:11-27 (2014)  -  DOI:

Responses in the microbial food web to increased rates of nutrient supply in a southern Chilean fjord: possible implications of cage aquaculture

Lasse Mork Olsen1,*, Klaudia L. Hernández2,3, Murat Van Ardelan4, Jose Luis Iriarte5, Nicolas Sánchez4, Humberto E. González3,6, Nils Tokle1, Yngvar Olsen

1Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Dept. of Biology, 7491 Trondheim, Norway
2Centro de Investigacion Marina Quintay CIMARQ, Facultad de Ecologia y Recursos Naturales, Universidad Andres Bello,
2340000 Valparaiso, Chile
3Universidad Austral de Chile, Instituto de Ciencias Marinas y Limnológicas, 5090000 Valdivia, Chile
4Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Dept. of Chemistry, 7491 Trondheim, Norway
5Instituto de Acuicultura and Centro de Investigación en Ecosistemas de la Patagonia-CIEP, Universidad Austral de Chile,
5480000 Puerto Montt, Chile
6Programa de Financiamiento Basal, COPAS Sur Austral, 4030000 Concepción, Chile
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Cage fish farms release the inorganic nutrients ammonium (NH4) and phosphate (PO4) into the surrounding water. The objectives of this experiment from the Comau fjord (42.2°S) in southern Chile was to study how increased input of NH4 and PO4 to pelagic waters affects the biomass of defined functional groups of the microbial food web and the community composition of the micro-autotrophs. We used microcosms with NH4 and PO4 added in a gradient of concentrations, with the same N:P ratio as in aquaculture effluent. In addition, silicic acid was added in a 1:1 ratio with nitrogen to mimic the rich supply of silicon from both deep water and river water entering this fjord. A positive biomass response to nutrient loading rate was observed in the micro-autotroph, micro-heterotroph, and meso-heterotroph functional groups dominated by micro-phytoplankton, ciliates, and copepods, respectively. Silicon concentration was reduced to a low level, but the Si supply ratio maintained a dominance of diatoms. Biomass increase was accompanied by a succession in the diatom-dominated community towards large and elongated, possibly grazer-resistant species and some small elongated species adapted to silicon-limited conditions. Grazers had a role in the succession by removing successful non-elongated competitors. Silicon, which is not released by fish farms, played a crucial role in the phytoplankton response. With reduced freshwater input in Patagonia as predicted due to climate change, the supply of silicon to the productive zone below the brackish layer might be reduced, which could shift the phytoplankton community more in favor of dinoflagellates or other non-silicified species.

KEY WORDS: Eutrophication · Phytoplankton community · Microbial food web · Microcosm · Patagonia · Chile

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Cite this article as: Olsen LM, Hernández KL, Ardelan MV, Iriarte JL and others (2014) Responses in the microbial food web to increased rates of nutrient supply in a southern Chilean fjord: possible implications of cage aquaculture. Aquacult Environ Interact 6:11-27.

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