MEPS 375:85-99 (2009)  -  doi:10.3354/meps07730

Phytoplankton biodiversity and NW Mediterranean Sea warming: changes in the dinoflagellate genus Ceratium in the 20th century

Alina Tunin-Ley1,2, Frédéric Ibañez1,2, Jean-Philippe Labat1,2, Adriana Zingone3, Rodolphe Lemée1,2,*

1Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6, Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche, 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
2CNRS, Marine Microbial Ecology Group, Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche, 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
3Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Villa Comunale, 80121 Napoli, Italy
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Our knowledge of the response of phytoplankton to climate change is restricted by the lack of phytoplankton long-term studies, especially those reporting species data. To circumvent this problem, we combined recent data from sampling at monitoring sites with old bibliographic data. The study was conducted on the genus Ceratium (planktonic dinoflagellates) in the NW Mediterranean, as numerous studies have been conducted in the area since the beginning of the 20th century. In addition, species of this highly diverse genus are known to be particularly sensitive to water temperature, and should thus be responsive to global warming. The temporal distribution of Ceratium species over the last century showed a progressive disappearance from the surface layer of likely stenothermic species, which may have moved to deeper layers in response to water warming, along with a decrease of species richness during the annual cycle. Seasonal and phenological aspects of Ceratium assemblages were also affected, as illustrated by the earlier timing in the minimum of richness. A change in the overall species assemblage also occurred from past to present in the Ligurian Sea, suggesting a warming in this area consistent with the development in surface water temperatures. Our results suggest that Ceratium species may constitute good biological indicators of warming in the NW Mediterranean Sea. In addition, the present study showed the importance of time-series data and the value of historical literature as the basis for ecological studies of long-term trends needed to substantiate our current understanding of the impact of global change on marine biodiversity.


KEY WORDS: Ceratium · Phytoplankton · Climate change · Long-term series · Mediterranean · Biodiversity · Biological indicator · Historical ecology


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Cite this article as: Tunin-Ley A, Ibañez F, Labat J, Zingone A, Lemée R (2009) Phytoplankton biodiversity and NW Mediterranean Sea warming: changes in the dinoflagellate genus Ceratium in the 20th century. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 375:85-99

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