Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 5888–5897 | Cite as

Does increased salinity influence the competitive outcome of two producer species?

  • C . Venâncio
  • E. Anselmo
  • A. Soares
  • I. Lopes
Research Article


Within the context of global climate changes, it is expected that low-lying coastal freshwater ecosystems will face seawater intrusion with concomitant increase in salinity levels. Increased salinity may provoke disruption of competitive relationships among freshwater species. However, species may be capable of acclimating to salinity, which, in turn, may influence the resilience of ecosystems. Accordingly, this work aimed at assessing the effects of multigenerational exposure to low levels of salinity in the competitive outcome of two species of green microalgae: Raphidocelis subcapitata and Chlorella vulgaris. To attain this, three specific objectives were delineated: (1) compare the toxicity of natural seawater (SW) and NaCl (as a surrogate of SW) to the two microalgae, (2) determine the capacity of the two microalgae species to acclimate to low salinity levels, and (3) assess the influence of exposure to low salinity levels in the competitive outcome of the two microalgae. Results revealed SW to be slightly less toxic than NaCl for the two microalgae. The EC25,72 h for growth rate was 4.63 and 10.3 mS cm−1 for R. subcapitata and 6.94 and 15.4 mS cm−1 for C. vulgaris, respectively for NaCl and SW. Both algae were capable of acclimating to low levels of salinity, but C. vulgaris seemed to acclimate faster than R. subcapitata. When exposed in competition, under control conditions, the growth rates of C. vulgaris were lower than those of R. subcapitata. However, C. vulgaris was capable of acquiring competitive advantage equaling or surpassing the growth rate of R. subcapitata with the addition of NaCl or SW, respectively. The multigenerational exposure to low levels of salinity influenced the competitive outcome of the two algae both under control and salinity exposure. These results suggest that long-term exposure to low salinity stress can cause shifts in structure of algae communities and, therefore, should not be neglected since algae are at the basis of food web constituting important energetic resources to higher trophic levels.


Sodium chloride Natural seawater Competition Microalgae Raphidocelis subcapitata Chlorella vulgaris 



This study was funded by national funds (OE) through FCT/MEC and co-funded by FEDER through COMPETE (POFC), by FSE and POPH and the research project SALTFREE (projects: IF/00475/2013; PTDC/AAC-CLI/111706/2009). C. Venâncio is grant holder from FCT (ref. SFRH/BD/81717/2011). This research was also partially supported by Strategic Funding UID/AMB/50017/2013 through national funds provided by FCT—Foundation for Science and Technology and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in the framework of the program PT2020.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • C . Venâncio
    • 1
    • 2
  • E. Anselmo
    • 1
  • A. Soares
    • 1
    • 2
  • I. Lopes
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  2. 2.CESAM—Centro de Estudos do Ambiente e do MarUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal

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