Rarity, ecological memory, rate of floral change in phytoplankton—and the mystery of the Red Cock
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- Padisák, J., Hajnal, É., Krienitz, L. et al. Hydrobiologia (2010) 653: 45. doi:10.1007/s10750-010-0344-2
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In this article, we attempt to estimate the contemporary phytoplankton species pool of a particular lake, by assessing the rate of floral change over a period of 15 years. Phytoplankton time series data from Lake Stechlin, an oligo-mesotrophic lake in the Baltic Lake District (Germany) were used. Of the 254 algal species recorded during the 15-year of studies with roughly biweekly sampling, 212 species were planktonic. In the individual plankton years, the recorded total number of species changed between 97 and 122, of which the number of dominants (>1% contribution to the annual average of total biomass) was only 10–19. The 15-year cumulative number of species exhibited an almost linear increase after an initial saturation phase. This increase was attributed to two reasons: increase of sample size and immigration of species new to the flora. Based on a probabilistic model developed in this study, we estimated the number of co-existing planktonic species of the lake as some 180, and the rate of floral change as 1–2 species per year. Of these co-existing species, only few maintain the matter–energy processing ecosystem functions in any particular plankton year. Selection of these dominants is probably driven by mesoclimatic cycles, coupled with human-induced forcing, like eutrophication. All others are hiding as an ecological memory, in the sense of the capacity or experiences of past states to influence present or future responses of the community. Data analyses suggest that selection of the ‘memory species’ that show temporary abundance increases over shorter (several years) periods are largely dependent upon the dominants. These results show that interspecific interactions and the particular autecological features of the dominants, together with their effects on the whole ecosystem, act as a major organizing force. Some phytoplankton species, like Planktothrix rubescens, are efficient ecosystem engineers with cascading effects of both a top-down and bottom-up nature. Historical scientific data on Planktothrix blooms in Lake Stechlin suggest cyclic patterns in long-term development of phytoplankton which, as the legend of the Red Cock suggests, dates back much further than scientific archives.