, Volume 628, Issue 1, pp 27–45 | Cite as

Ecological relationships between phytoplankton communities and different spatial scales in European reservoirs: implications at catchment level monitoring programmes

  • Edna Cabecinha
  • Paul J. Van den Brink
  • João Alexandre Cabral
  • Rui Cortes
  • Martinho Lourenço
  • Miguel Ângelo Pardal
Primary research paper


Phytoplankton communities are structured by factors acting over temporal and spatial scales. Identifying which factors are driving spatial patterns in aquatic communities is the central aim of ecology. In this study, data sets of phytoplankton communities and environmental data of two Portuguese reservoirs types (lowland “riverine reservoirs” and higher altitude “artificial lake reservoirs”) were used to determine the importance of environmental variables at different spatial (geographical, regional and local) and time scales (seasons, years) on the community structure. In all the data sets, the multivariate ordination technique Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA) showed that regional and local scales explained the majority (9–18% and 13–19%, respectively) of the taxa variance. However, for “riverine reservoirs”, time variables were more important, explaining 27% of the variability in phytoplankton assemblages. Variance partitioning was used to assess the individual importance of the three spatial scales and time for the community structure of the two reservoir types. The majority of among-site variability (5.9–21.4%) was accounted for by time variables, with local, regional, and geographical scale variables accounting for 3.3–5.6%, 3.7–4.5% and 2.6–2.9%, respectively. The effects of different spatial scales on phytoplankton communities were clearly interrelated; thus, implying that phytoplankton assemblages are capable of detecting stress from catchment to site scales.


Phytoplankton Ecological status Reservoirs Spatial scales Multivariate analysis Partial constrained ordination 



This study was carried out within the framework of collaboration agreements between INAG (National Water Institute) and other universities, namely the UTAD (University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro) for the study of Portuguese reservoirs. We would like to thank the LABELEC staff for the environmental and phytoplankton data, namely to Engº. Lourenço Gil. The authors also thank the anonymous reviewers, and the Editor who helped to improve the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10750_2009_9731_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (97 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 97 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edna Cabecinha
    • 1
  • Paul J. Van den Brink
    • 2
    • 3
  • João Alexandre Cabral
    • 1
  • Rui Cortes
    • 4
  • Martinho Lourenço
    • 5
  • Miguel Ângelo Pardal
    • 6
  1. 1.Laboratory of Applied Ecology, CITAB—Department of Biological and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of Trás-os-Montes e Alto DouroVila RealPortugal
  2. 2.Alterra, Wageningen University and Research CentreWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality ManagementWageningen University and Research CentreWageningenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.CITAB—Department of Forestal EngineeringUniversity of Trás-os-Montes e Alto DouroVila RealPortugal
  5. 5.CITAB—Department of GeologyUniversity of Trás-os-Montes e Alto DouroVila RealPortugal
  6. 6.IMAR (Institute of Marine Research), Department of ZoologyUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal

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