AME 65:233-248 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/ame01551

Relative importance of phototrophic, heterotrophic, and mixotrophic nanoflagellates in the microbial food web of a river-influenced coastal upwelling area

Cristian A. Vargas1,*, Paulina Y. Contreras1, José Luis Iriarte2

1Aquatic Systems Research Unit, Environmental Sciences Center EULA Chile, Universidad de Concepción, PO Box 160-C, Concepción, Chile
2Instituto de Acuicultura, Facultad de Pesquerías y Oceanografía, Universidad Austral de Chile, PO Box 1327, Puerto Montt, Chile

ABSTRACT: The contribution of phototrophic nanoflagellates (PNF) as primary producers and heterotrophic (HNF) and mixotrophic (MNF) nanoflagellates as major grazers of bacterioplankton was assessed during a 3 yr study in a highly productive, river-influenced coastal upwelling area under contrasting seasons (winter/non-upwelling vs. spring/upwelling). Sampling was conducted at 2 stations—around a river plume and at an intensive seasonal upwelling site—with contrasting environmental gradients. The MNF were evaluated functionally for the possession of photo-pigments and experimentally for the ability to take up prey, specifically fluorescently labeled bacteria (FLB). During the short-term experiments, we estimated grazing rates over FLB for 2 size categories of HNF and MNF. Both bacterial production (BP) and nanophytoplankton primary production (PP) were higher in the river plume area. PNF abundance ranged from 6 × 109 to 411 × 109 cells m−2, whereas HNF abundance fluctuated between 27 × 109 and 267 × 109 cells m−2. In contrast, the abundance of MNF was usually low, with a maximum of ~7 × 109 cells m−2. For MNF, ingestion rates were between 7.3 and 30.7 bacteria per flagellate and hour (bact flag−1 h−1), whereas HNF ingestion ranged from 2 to 7.5 bact flag−1 h−1. However, since HNF dominated in terms of abundance, they were the dominant grazers on bacterioplankton populations. Estimates of grazing pressure for the microbial food web showed that MNF were capable of removing 1 to 51% BP d−1, whereas HNF could control BP, eliminating from 24% BP d−1 up to more than 100% BP d−1. Given the area’s relatively high nutrient condition, the elevated MNF biomass in the river plume and the greater bacterivory impact from MNF in winter, it seems that light and, thus, the energy/carbon limitation could be the main trigger for mixotrophy in this river-influenced coastal upwelling area.


KEY WORDS: Mixotrophy · River discharge · Upwelling area · Plankton food web


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Cite this article as: Vargas CA, Contreras PY, Iriarte JL (2012) Relative importance of phototrophic, heterotrophic, and mixotrophic nanoflagellates in the microbial food web of a river-influenced coastal upwelling area. Aquat Microb Ecol 65:233-248. https://doi.org/10.3354/ame01551

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