To, Sze Wing ORCID:, Acevedo-Trejos, Esteban ORCID:, Chakraborty, Subhendu ORCID:, Pomati, Francesco and Merico, Agostino ORCID: (2024) Grazing strategies determine the size composition of phytoplankton in eutrophic lakes. Limnology and Oceanography . DOI

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Although the general impacts of zooplankton grazing on phytoplankton communities are clear, we know comparatively less about how specific grazing strategies interact with environmental conditions to shape the size structure of phytoplankton communities. Here, we present a new data-driven, size-based model that describes changes in the size composition of lake phytoplankton under various environmental constraints. The model includes an ecological trade-off emerging from observed allometric relationships between (1) phytoplankton cell size and phytoplankton growth and (2) phytoplankton cell size and zooplankton grazing. In our model, phytoplankton growth is nutrient-dependent and zooplankton grazing varies according to specific grazing strategies, namely, specialists (targeting a narrow range of the size-feeding spectrum) vs. generalists (targeting a wide range of the size-feeding spectrum). Our results indicate that grazing strategies shape the size composition of the phytoplankton community in nutrient-rich conditions, whereas inorganic nutrient concentrations govern phytoplankton biomass. Under oligotrophic regimes, the phytoplankton community is dominated by small cell sizes and the grazers have little to no impact. Under eutrophic regimes, dominating specialist grazers push phytoplankton towards small cells, whereas dominating generalist grazers push phytoplankton towards large cells. Our work highlights that trait-based modeling, based on realistic eco-physiological trade-offs, represents a valuable tool for disentangling the interactive roles played by nutrient regimes and grazing strategies in determining the size compositions of lake phytoplankton. Ultimately, our study offers a quantitative basis for understanding how communities of lake phytoplankton may reorganize in the future in response to changes in nutrient levels and zooplankton grazing strategies.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: PA2
Research affiliation: Integrated Modelling > Systems Ecology
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
ISSN: 0024-3590
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2024 12:55
Last Modified: 04 Apr 2024 12:55

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