Phytoplankton allelochemical interactions change microbial food web dynamics

Astrid Weissbach, Maria Rudström, Martin Olofsson, Christian Béchemin, John Icely, Alice Newton, Urban Tillmann and Catherine Legrand

Limnol. Oceanogr., 56(3), 2011, 899-909 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2011.56.3.0899

ABSTRACT: This study investigates the effect of filtrates from an allelopathic dinoflagellate, Alexandrium tamarense, on four microbial food webs that have been manipulated experimentally from natural seawater by modifying the availability of resources in the form of dissolved organic carbon with additions of peptone, and by altering the grazing pressure with size fractionation. Bacterial production was generally not affected by allelochemicals, but bacteria showed higher net growth in all food webs when allelochemicals were added, whereas heterotrophic nanoflagellates > 7 µm and ciliates were constrained in all food webs. Allelochemicals had the largest negative effects on microbial communities with low grazing pressure. In food webs with high grazing pressure and additional resources, phytoplankton and small nanoflagellates were positively affected by the addition of allelochemicals, suggesting that those were interfering with trophic interactions in the microbial communities. By the lysis of organisms sensitive towards allelochemicals, resources are made available and grazing pressure on certain microorganisms is reduced. However, the intensity of these interactions is modulated by both the availability of resources and the biomass of grazers in the initial food web.

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