The shape of the productivity–richness relationship (PRR) for phytoplankton has been suggested to be unimodal, that is, the richness peaks at intermediate productivity levels. However, the mechanistic understanding for this pattern is still widely debated. In this study, we observed a unimodal PRR within 71 lakes along the Yangtze River encompassing an altitude range of 0–2700m, and an over 2200km distance from the upper reaches to the lower reaches. At low productivity, the competition for resources and regulatory processes jointly affected phytoplankton richness and composition, and their explanatory power depend on the gradient scale of driving factors. The variation of temperature attributing to altitudinal difference explained the majority of the variations of phytoplankton. If the altitude variation in temperature was eliminated, the explanatory power of temperature decreased from 31.7 to 7.6, and the independent effect of each resource and regulatory variable were limited and not decisive. At high productivity, the negative feedback of increased productivity (light limitation) affected the phytoplankton species richness and composition. The light-sensitive species disappeared, low-light-adapted species was retained and the phytoplankton composition gradually became similar with an increase in productivity. The findings contribute to an increased understanding of the mechanisms resulting in a hump-shaped PRR for phytoplankton.
Science of the Total Environment – Elsevier
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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