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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 146:231-247 (1997)  -  doi:10.3354/meps146231

Grazing by protists and seasonal changes in the size structure of protozooplankton and phytoplankton in a temperate nearshore environment (western Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada)

Tamigneaux E, Mingelbier M, Klein B, Legendre L

Seasonal changes in the biomass and size structure of phytoplankton and protozooplankton and the grazing effect of protozooplankton on phytoplankton were assessed in a temperate nearshore environment (Baie des Chaleurs, western Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada). The size structure of protozooplankton and phytoplankton assemblages showed relatively similar seasonal changes. During spring, dominance by large (>20 µm) heterotrophic or mixotrophic ciliates and flagellates coincided with high biomass of chain-forming diatoms, suggesting that protists were important grazers of the spring diatom bloom. During summer, concentrations and biomass of ciliates and flagellates >20 µm were lower than they were during spring and, consequently, the relative contribution of protists <20 µm increased. The potential grazing impact of ciliates <20 µm on single celled cyanobacteria was similar to or even higher than that of nanoflagellates. Grazing experiments conducted in situ using the serial dilution technique and pre-screening water on 64 µm showed that 33 to 42% of the chl a biomass and 54 to >100% of phytoplankton production were consumed daily by protozooplankton. Thus, when predation was reduced, protozooplankton were able to control phytoplankton biomass and production. Predation by copepods, which showed high concentrations and were dominated by omnivorous Oithonidae during summer, may have played a central role in the seasonal changes in the size structure and biomass of protozooplankton. The observations and results from path analysis suggest the existence of 2 different food webs corresponding to bloom and summer conditions, respectively.

Size structure · Protozooplankton · Ciliates · Flagellates · Grazing · Phytoplankton · Temperate nearshore waters

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