MEPS 563:35-49 (2017)  -  DOI:

Functional trait variation and nitrogen use efficiency in temperate coastal phytoplankton

Elsa Breton, Urania Christaki, Simon Bonato, Morgane Didry, Luis Felipe Artigas*

UMR 8187 LOG, Laboratoire d’Océanologie et de Géosciences, Université du Littoral Côte d’Opale, CNRS, Université Lille, 62930 Wimereux, France
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: This study explored the relevance of the use of a trait-based approach to explain seasonal phytoplankton succession and the underlying mechanisms that structure phytoplankton assemblages and promote nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) in the temperate coastal waters of the eastern English Channel (EEC). A 3 yr time series of phytoplankton abundance assessed by flow cytometry was combined with a selection of traits related to resource utilization (light and inorganic nutrients), grazing resistance, and maximum growth, mainly sourced from the literature. Our results showed that the identified functional groups (FGs) ranged deterministically along a temporal gradient of light and nutrient availability, according to several fundamental trade-offs. These trade-offs, which reflected different ecological strategies, were distributed along 1 axis of niche differentiation. This favoured different FGs through time, and consequently allowed them to partition those available resources. The observed functional divergence of the phytoplankton community deviated from that of the expected, random one. It showed that as light increased, the phytoplankton community assembly was mainly driven by competition and grazing pressure, which eventually favoured those FGs that were fastest growing and less vulnerable to predation. Structural equation modeling evidenced that a phytoplankton community, functionally dominated by FGs that were relatively large, fast-growing, and well-adapted to higher light, promoted NUE. Together, these results confirmed the potential use of laboratory-measured functional traits to explore environment-trait linkages in phytoplankton. They also showed the possibility of further extending this approach to identify the mechanisms driving phytoplankton community assembly, structure, and related ecosystem processes.

KEY WORDS: Phytoplankton community · Flow cytometry · Functional traits · Nitrogen use efficiency

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Cite this article as: Breton E, Christaki U, Bonato S, Didry M, Artigas LF (2017) Functional trait variation and nitrogen use efficiency in temperate coastal phytoplankton. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 563:35-49.

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