New aspects of migratory behavior of phytoplankton in stratified waters: Effects of halocline strength and light on Tetraselmis sp. (Prasinophyceae) in an artificial water column

Erga, Svein Rune, Maren Dybwad, Øyvind Frette, Jon Kåre Lotsberg, Kjetil Aursland

Limnol. Oceanogr., 48(3), 2003, 1202-1213 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2003.48.3.1202

ABSTRACT: There is very little information in the literature about how phytoplankton flagellates respond to rapid changes in salinity (e.g., haloclines of different strength). Here we present such data obtained from experiments with Tetraselmis sp. (Prasinophyceae) in a specially designed artificial water column. The experiments were performed with surface salinities varying from 27.4 to 33.4‰, whereas bottom salinities were essentially constant (34.0-34.6‰). Cells were introduced near the bottom. The first stage of the ascent was an accumulation of cells in the lower part of the halocline. The second was a transit to the upper part of the halocline after a variable time lag, and the third stage was a further ascent to the surface layer, again after a variable time lag. Our results reveal a strong positive phototaxis of the swimming cells under continuous surface irradiances in the range 17-144 µmol quanta m-2 s-1. Maximum swimming speeds were found to be 0.9 m h-1. Increasing halocline strength (ΔS = 0.7, 3.0, and 6.6‰), resulted in reduced swimming activity, but the cells managed to pass through after an adaptation period. Under a 14 : 10 light : dark (LD) cycle, the cell concentrations of the bottom layer decreased gradually for each cycle, and cells accumulated in the surface layer during the light period. During the dark period, cell concentrations were also increasing in the halocline for each cycle. A downward migration started about 2 h before the light period ended and was slower than the ascent of cells from the halocline. It therefore seems that positive phototaxis was stronger than the positive geotaxis as a driving force of cell motility. We conclude that strong haloclines can prevent phytoplankton flagellates in the surface layer from reaching the nutrient-rich deeper layer during the night and therefore play an important regulating role in the bloom dynamics of phytoplankton.

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