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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2010

Regional species pools control community saturation in lake phytoplankton

Ptacnik, Robert; Andersen, Tom; Brettum, Pal; Lepisto, Liisa; Willen, Eva


Recent research has highlighted that positive biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships hold for all groups of organisms, including microbes. Yet, we still lack understanding regarding the drivers of microbial diversity, in particular, whether diversity of microbial communities is a matter of local factors, or whether metacommunities are of similar importance to what is known from higher organisms. Here, we explore the driving forces behind spatial variability in lake phytoplankton diversity in Fennoscandia. While phytoplankton biovolume is best predicted by local phosphorus concentrations, phytoplankton diversity (measured as genus richness, G) only showed weak correlations with local concentrations of total phosphorus. By estimating spatial averages of total phosphorus concentrations on various scales from an independent, spatially representative lake survey, we found that close to 70 per cent of the variability in local phytoplankton diversity can be explained by regionally averaged phosphorus concentrations on a scale between 100 and 400 km. Thus, the data strongly indicate the existence of metacommunities on this scale. Furthermore, we show a strong dependency between lake productivity and spatial community turnover. Thus, regional productivity affects beta-diversity by controlling spatial community turnover, resulting in scale-dependent productivity-diversity relationships. As an illustration of the interaction between local and regional processes in shaping microbial diversity, our results offer both empirical support and a plausible mechanism for the existence of common scaling rules in both the macrobial and the microbial worlds. We argue that awareness of regional species pools in phytoplankton and other unicellular organisms may critically improve our understanding of ecosystems and their susceptibility to anthropogenic stressors.


biodiversity; metacommunities; microbial diversity; phytoplankton; lakes; ecosystem functioning

Published in

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
2010, Volume: 277, number: 1701, pages: 3755-3764
Publisher: ROYAL SOC

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    Evolutionary Biology

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