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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 535:11-27 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11429

Microbial food web structural and functional responses to oyster and fish as top predators

Behzad Mostajir1,*, Cécile Roques1, Corinne Bouvier1, Thierry Bouvier1, Éric Fouilland1, Patrice Got1, Emilie Le Floc’h1, Jean Nouguier1, Sébastien Mas2, Richard Sempéré3, Télesphore Sime-Ngando4, Marc Troussellier1, Francesca Vidussi

1Center of Marine Biodiversity, Exploitation and Conservation, UMR 9190, CNRS/Université de Montpellier/IRD/IFREMER, Place Eugène Bataillon, Université de Montpellier, Case 93, 34095 Montpellier Cedex 05, France
2Observatoire de Recherche Méditerranéen de l’Environnement, UMS 3282, Centre d’Ecologie Marine Expérimentale MEDIMEER, Station Méditerranéenne de l’Environnement Littoral, Université de Montpellier/CNRS/IRD, Place Eugène Bataillon, Université de Montpellier, Case 60, 34095 Montpellier Cedex 05, France
3Aix-Marseille Université, Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography (UMR 7294), CNRS/IRD, Aix Marseille University, Toulon University, Case 901, Campus de Luminy, Bâtiment Méditerranée, 13288 Marseille Cedex 9, France
4Laboratoire Microorganismes: Génome et Environnement (UMR CNRS 6023), Clermont Université Blaise Pascal, Complexe Scientifique des Cézeaux, 24 Avenue des Landais, BP 80026, 63171 Aubière Cedex, France
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The impact of fish and oysters on components of the pelagic microbial food web (MFW) was studied in a 10 d mesocosm experiment using Mediterranean coastal waters. Two mesocosms contained natural water only (‘Controls’), 2 contained natural water with Crassostrea gigas (‘Oyster’), and 2 contained natural water with Atherina spp. (‘Fish’). Abundances and biomasses of microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, phytoplankton, heterotrophic flagellates, and ciliates) were measured to estimate their contribution to the total microbial carbon biomass. Two MFW indices, the microbial autotroph:heterotroph C biomass ratio (A:H) structural index and the gross primary production:respiration ratio (GPP:R) functional index, were defined. In the Fish mesocosms, selective predation on zooplankton led to a trophic cascade with 51% higher phytoplankton C biomass and consequently higher A:H and GPP:R than in the Controls. By the end of the experiment, the Oyster mesocosms had a bacterial C biomass 87% higher and phytoplankton C biomass 93% lower than the Controls, giving significantly lower A:H and GPP:R (<1). Overall, the results showed that wild zooplanktivorous fish had a cascading trophic effect, making the MFW more autotrophic (both indices >1), whereas oyster activities made the MFW more heterotrophic (both indices <1). These MFW indices can therefore be used to assess the impact of multiple local and global forcing factors on the MFW. The results presented here also have implications for sustainable management of coastal environments, suggesting that intense cultivation of filter feeders can be coupled with management to encourage wild local zooplanktivorous fishes to maintain a more resilient system and preserve the equilibrium of the MFW.


KEY WORDS: Microbial food web · Virioplankton · Bacterioplankton · Phytoplankton · Protozooplankton · Crassostrea · Atherina · Autotrophy · Heterotrophy


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Cite this article as: Mostajir B, Roques C, Bouvier C, Bouvier T and others (2015) Microbial food web structural and functional responses to oyster and fish as top predators. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 535:11-27. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11429

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