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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 31:241-248 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/ame031241

Competition and coexistence of phytoplankton under fluctuating light: experiments with two cyanobacteria

Elena Litchman1,2,*

1University of Minnesota, 1987 Upper Buford Circle, St. Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA
2Present address: School of Biology, 310 Ferst Drive, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332, USA

ABSTRACT: The effects of light fluctuations on phytoplankton competition were examined in the experiments with 2 freshwater cyanobacteria, Anabaena flos-aquae and Phormidium luridum. Light regimes had the same average irradiance of 50 μmol photons m-2 s-1 and included constant light, high-low light fluctuations of 8 and 24 h periods and light:dark fluctuations of a 24 h period. A mechanistic model of light competition was used to predict competitive outcomes under these light regimes. The parameter values were obtained experimentally for constant light conditions. In the experiments, A. flos-aquae was rapidly excluded under constant light but persisted under fluctuating light. The model predicted well the dynamics and the outcome of competition under constant light but performed poorly under fluctuating light. The results indicate that light fluctuations may change the dynamics and outcome of competition and slow competitive exclusion and also that competition under fluctuating light cannot necessarily be predicted from the constant light monoculture dynamics.

KEY WORDS: Cyanobacteria · Competition · Irradiance · Fluctuations

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