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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 655:43-57 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13515

Interannual stability of phytoplankton community composition in the North-East Atlantic

Stephanie Allen1,6,*, Stephanie Henson2, Anna Hickman1, Claudie Beaulieu3, Patrick C. Doncaster4, David G. Johns5

1Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Southampton, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
2National Oceanography Centre, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
3Earth and Marine Sciences, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA
4Biological Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK
5Marine Biological Association, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK
6Present address: Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, West Hoe, Plymouth PL1 3DH, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: As primary producers, phytoplankton play a pivotal role in the marine environment and are central to many biogeochemical processes. Changes to phytoplankton community composition could have major consequences for wider ecosystem functioning and may occur in response to climate change. Here we describe multi-decadal variability in phytoplankton community structure using taxonomic data from the Continuous Plankton Recorder collected in the North-East Atlantic from 1969-2013, using a total of 42 diatom and dinoflagellate taxa. We considered a range of characteristics of community structure, including taxonomic diversity and community stability and disorder, and how these characteristics change in response to sea surface temperature, mixed layer depth and the North Atlantic Oscillation. We found that phytoplankton community composition was largely stable on interannual timescales. A change in community composition occurred between 1985 and 1995 due to an increased dominance of 2 diatom taxa (Rhizosolenia styliformis and Thalassiosira spp.); however, after this period, the community returned to its previous composition. Further, a community disorder analysis found that phytoplankton compositional structure became more rigid in recent years, which may lead to an eventual community shift in the future. In contrast to previous studies that revealed relationships between total phytoplankton abundance or biomass and environmental forcing, we found that community structure had, at most, a very weak relationship with the environmental parameters tested. Changes to the physical environment may therefore have less influence at interannual timescales on phytoplankton community structure than previously thought.


KEY WORDS: Phytoplankton · Continuous · Plankton recorder · Bray-Curtis · Biodiversity · Disorder · Long-term analysis · Community structure · Stability


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Cite this article as: Allen S, Henson S, Hickman A, Beaulieu C, Doncaster PC, Johns DG (2020) Interannual stability of phytoplankton community composition in the North-East Atlantic. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 655:43-57. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13515

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