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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Large seasonal and spatial variation in nano- and microphytoplankton diversity along a Baltic Sea-North Sea salinity gradient

Olofsson, Malin; Hagan, James G.; Karlson, Bengt; Gamfeldt, Lars


Aquatic phytoplankton experience large fluctuations in environmental conditions during seasonal succession and across salinity gradients, but the impact of this variation on their diversity is poorly understood. We examined spatio-temporal variation in nano- and microphytoplankton (>2 mu m) community structure using almost two decades of light-microscope based monitoring data. The dataset encompasses 19 stations that span a salinity gradient from 2.8 to 35 along the Swedish coastline. Spatially, both regional and local phytoplankton diversity increased with broad-scale salinity variation. Diatoms dominated at high salinity and the proportion of cyanobacteria increased with decreasing salinity. Temporally, cell abundance peaked in winter-spring at high salinity but in summer at low salinity. This was likely due to large filamentous cyanobacteria blooms that occur in summer in low salinity areas, but which are absent in higher salinities. In contrast, phytoplankton local diversity peaked in spring at low salinity but in fall and winter at high salinity. Whilst differences in seasonal variation in cell abundance were reasonably well-explained by variation in salinity and nutrient availability, variation in local-scale phytoplankton diversity was poorly predicted by environmental variables. Overall, we provide insights into the causes of spatio-temporal variation in coastal phytoplankton community structure while also identifying knowledge gaps.

Published in

Scientific Reports
2020, Volume: 10, number: 1, article number: 17666

    Sustainable Development Goals

    Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Fish and Aquacultural Science

    Publication identifier


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