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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2003

Ciliate populations in temporary freshwater ponds: seasonal dynamics and influential factors

Andrushchyshyn, O; Magnusson, AK; Williams, DD


1. The ciliate populations of two temporary ponds in southern Ontario were studied throughout their aquatic phases in 2001. Pond I (similar to1 ha) held water for 98 days, whereas Pond II (similar to0.25 ha) held water for 34 days. Populations were assessed both within the ponds themselves and within a series of enclosures in which invertebrate predator pressure was manipulated.2. In the natural pond water, total ciliate abundance in Pond II rose rapidly from day 1 increasing two orders of magnitude by day 7. In contrast, total abundance in Pond I began at the same level as in Pond II but increased much more slowly, reached a plateau of around 500 individuals L-1, and increased again late in the hydroperiod.3. Despite being only 500 m apart, the two ponds were fairly dissimilar in terms of their species richness and species composition. Pond I contained 50 species compared with 70 species for Pond II, with only 24 species shared. Additional species occurred within the enclosures raising the total species richness to 145 species; 88 from Pond I, 104 from Pond II, with 47 species (30%) in common. Pond II contained more mid-sized ciliates (50-200 mum), whereas Pond I was dominated by smaller ciliates, especially in mid-May and early June. In Pond I, cumulative species richness throughout the hydroperiod was highest in the predator addition enclosures (65 +/- 4 species), followed by the partial-predator exclusion enclosures (50 +/- 4). Lowest species richness was found in the control enclosures (39 +/- 2) and in the pondwater controls (39 +/- 0). Differences between the ciliates in the natural pond water and the enclosures appeared to be related to a greater concentration of phytoplankton within the enclosures (perhaps resulting from extensive growth of duckweed, Lemna , outside), and higher densities of zooplankters in the pond.4. The physicochemical environment influenced species richness, total abundance and the number of rare species (27 in Pond II versus 13 in Pond I). Variation in ciliate abundance in Pond I could be explained by the number of days after filling (39%) and enclosure treatment (23%). These two parameters also explained 72% of the variation in species richness in Pond I (46 and 26%, respectively). Sixty-five per cent of the variation in abundance in Pond II could be explained by the measured parameters: number of days after filling 27%, pH 19%, and nitrate levels 12%. Fifty-two per cent of the variation in species richness was explained by the environmental parameters, of which pH was the most influential. Species succession was a strong feature of both ponds and its relationship to environmental variables and the presence of other organisms is discussed.5. Addition of invertebrate predators resulted in higher abundance and higher species richness for a limited time period in one of the ponds - suggesting that differences in foodweb dynamics may influence ciliate community composition.


Ciliates; seasonal succession; temporary ponds

Published in

Freshwater Biology
2003, Volume: 48, number: 3, pages: 548-564

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