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Relation of freshwater plankton productivity to species composition during induced successions Dickman, Michael David

Abstract

The species composition, primary productivity and relative abundance of the plankton organisms in Marion Lake, British Columbia were recorded at biweekly intervals for two months following artificial enrichment with nitrate or phosphate or both, of six large wooden enclosures within the lake in four seasons during the year. Enrichment resulted initially in a decrease in diversity and an increase in the productivity of the phytoplankton and standing crop of the entire plankton community. These events were collectively termed a "regressive succession" because their "direction" of change was the reverse of that normally encountered in primary and secondary successions. The regressive succession terminated following algal bloom formation, and diversity began to increase slowly while the primary productivity and standing crop of the plankton dropped. This was indicative of the beginning of a secondary succession in which one group of dominant species was replaced by another and then others in turn replaced these. This successional pattern occurred regardless of season, prevailing physical, chemical, or climatological factors. Thus, such a pattern appeared to be a very general one and was disrupted only by the physical removal of the majority of the planktonic species from the lake resulting from persistent and heavy rains which "flushed" the lake. A statistical analysis of each of the 167 euplankton species observed in the lake was performed using the data from each of the four enrichment series to determine which species responded significantly to artificial enrichment. The individual response patterns were nearly as diverse as the species themselves, however, one of the most common responses was made by very rare species which "bloomed" two to three weeks after nutrient addition. Few primary producers responded to more than one type of nutrient enrichment in any one season which emphasized the importance of Liebig’s Law of the Minimum. The higher trophic levels, on the other hand, responded more to the increase in standing crop in the different enclosures than to any one particular type of nutrient enrichment. The Shannon-Weaver formula, H =nP, log P, was modified by changing the definition of Pi, that is, the individuals in the ith species divided by the total number in the sample. This index was insensitive to changes in the relative abundance of the planktonic species from the higher trophic levels. Pi was redefined so that it was less sensitive to number and more sensitive to both relative biomass and relative productivity. This new index of diversity (Hp ) did not act selectively on the different trophic levels represented in the plankton samples. An understanding of the principles governing community organization and biotic succession should be based on the life history of the individual species comprising the community and not on assumptions about supposed trophic changes. This study indicated that pertinent information about the changes in the structure of a planktonic community could be gained from an analysis of the changes in the relative abundance of each of the species without artificially isolating and culturing these species and without lumping all the organisms into vague trophic categories.

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