Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Mixotrophy in freshwater foodwebs
by DeVaul, Sarah B., Ph.D., Temple University, 2016, 124; 10111316
Abstract (Summary)

Environmental heterogeneity in both space and time has significant repercussions for community structure and ecosystem processes. Dimictic lakes provide examples of vertically structured ecosystems that oscillate between stable and mixed thermal layers on a seasonal basis. Vertical patterns in abiotic conditions vary during both states, but with differing degrees of variation. For example, during summer thermal stratification there is high spatial heterogeneity in temperature, nutrients, dissolved oxygen and photosynthetically active radiation. The breakdown of stratification and subsequent mixing of the water column in fall greatly reduces the stability of the water column to a vertical gradient in light. Nutrients and biomass that were otherwise constrained to the depths are also suspended, leading to a boom in productivity.

Freshwater lakes are teeming with microbial diversity that responds to the dynamic environment in a seemingly predictable manner. Although such patterns have been well studied for nanoplanktonic phototrophic and heterotrophic populations, less work has been done to integrate the influence of mixotrophic nutrition to the protistan assemblage. Phagotrophy by phytoplankton increases the complexity of nutrient and energy flow due to their dual functioning as producers and consumers. The role of mixotrophs in freshwater planktonic communities also varies depending on the relative balance between taxon-specific utilization of carbon and energy sources that ranges widely between phototrophy and heterotrophy. Therefore, the role of mixotrophy in the microbial food web is difficult to predict because functional types of mixotrophs along a gradient of nutritional strategies contribute differently to nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration.

The overall objective of this work was to advance existing knowledge of the abundance and activity of phagotrophy phytoplankton in lacustrine systems. The incorporation of mixotrophy into the microbial food web requires the complement of physiological studies in culture (as described in chapter 2) and quantification of activity (including abundance and bacterivory) in relation to strict phototrophs and heterotrophs in situ (as described in chapter 3 and 4). Information on the physiological ecology of mixotrophic protists is crucial to understanding their role in planktonic food webs and influence on the dynamic microbial community structure in lake ecosystems. An understanding of the ecological functioning of lakes has ultimate consequences for management of water resources, particularly in the face of global climate change.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Sanders, Robert W.
Commitee: Cordes, Erik E., Freestone, Amy, Holen, Dale
School: Temple University
Department: Biology
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-B 77/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ecology, Aquatic sciences
Keywords: Bacterivory, Food webs, Freshwater, Microbial loop, Mixotrophy, Phytoplankton
Publication Number: 10111316
ISBN: 978-1-339-74525-1
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