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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 421:1-11 (2011)  -  DOI:

Revisiting Remane’s concept: evidence for high plankton diversity and a protistan species maximum in the horohalinicum of the Baltic Sea

Irena V. Telesh1,*, Hendrik Schubert2, Sergei O. Skarlato3

1Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Saint Petersburg 199034, Russia
2Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Rostock, Rostock 18051, Germany
3Institute of Cytology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Saint Petersburg 194064, Russia

ABSTRACT: Ecological and evolutionary processes have shaped current biodiversity patterns. For brackish-water ecosystems, Remane’s Artenminimum (‘species minimum’) concept argues that taxonomic diversity in organisms is lowest within the horohalinicum, which occurs at salinity 5 to 8. This concept developed from macrozoobenthos data; it originated from, and is still applied to, the geologically young Baltic Sea, the world’s largest semi-enclosed, brackish water body with a unique permanent salinity gradient. We re-assessed pelagic biodiversity in the Baltic Sea, which had long remained underestimated. We show that phyto- and zooplankton in Baltic waters exhibit unexpectedly high diversity (>4000 taxa), with dominance by protists. Protists in the Baltic Sea follow a binomial distribution mode, while metazooplankton diversity decreases exponentially with higher salinity; however, species richness of both groups peaks in the horohalinicum. Drifting within large water masses, planktonic organisms are affected by only moderate salinity fluctuations (compared to benthic species), and thus prosper in brackish environments. The present study challenges Remane’s concept for large water bodies with relatively stable salinity gradients and substantiates a novel ecological perspective of the previously overlooked high protistan diversity in brackish waters. We infer that the pronounced adaptability and advanced osmoregulation strategies of protists are the result of large-scale ecological and evolutionary processes. The novel brackish-water biodiversity pattern underpins the proposed protistan species-maximum concept, which refines Remane’s model by discriminating between the effects of the horohalinicum on the biodiversity of small motile versus large sessile organisms.

KEY WORDS: Salinity gradient · Horohalinicum · Species diversity · Protists · Phytoplankton · Zooplankton · Brackish waters · Baltic Sea

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Cite this article as: Telesh IV, Schubert H, Skarlato SO (2011) Revisiting Remane’s concept: evidence for high plankton diversity and a protistan species maximum in the horohalinicum of the Baltic Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 421:1-11.

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