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Importance of underwater light field in selecting phytoplankton morphology in a eutrophic reservoir


This study attempted to reveal the effect of solar radiation fluctuation on the dynamics of phytoplankton communities expressed as cell morphology in eutrophic water bodies where the impacts of nutrients could be considered as small. Two morphological descriptors were proposed, cellular projected area (\(\varphi_{\rm p}\)) and flattening index (f), which were able to he cellular light-harvesting potential and energy requirement, respectively. A model was established to describe the effects of natural light availability on selecting phytoplankton assemblages with underwater field and mixing process in the water column considered. Based on the data collected from the eutrophic Yanghe Reservoir, the model was derived as \(V=37.92\lambda\varphi_{\rm p} (R^2 = 0.673, P < 0.01),\) where V is bio-volume, λ is a function of solar elevation angle (θ) and mixing/euphotic depth ratio (z mix/z eu) in water, and \(\varphi_{\rm p}.\) Post-analysis of the model results revealed that species with large \(\varphi_{\rm p}\) and f in general have advantages in spring and winter when underwater light availability is low; by contrast, those with small \(\varphi_{\rm p}\) and f have advantages in summer. Larger \(\varphi_{\rm p}\) and f mean that the cells could harvest more light energy and consumed less, allowing them to be selected under low light availability; and vice versa. We thus concluded that the underwater light field probably the most important factor in selecting phytoplankton morphology in eutrophic water bodies.

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We greatly thank Peter Baker who assisted us for the algal taxonomy and identification; we also thank Per Johan Færøvig to give us very good suggestions and comments which improved the work a lot. Finally, we are greatly indebted the editor and reviewers’ comments and suggestions on the manuscript. This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (50938007, 51221892).

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Correspondence to Wei An.

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Handling editor: Luigi Naselli-Flores

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Su, M., An, W., Yu, J. et al. Importance of underwater light field in selecting phytoplankton morphology in a eutrophic reservoir. Hydrobiologia 724, 203–216 (2014).

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  • Phytoplankton succession
  • Cellular projected area
  • Flattening index
  • Phytoplankton morphology
  • Underwater light field
  • z mix/z eu ratio