A permanently eutrophic South African estuary provided an ideal model ecosystem from which to unravel the drivers of recurrent accumulations of harmful algal bloom (HAB) species. Designed to encapsulate broad- to fine-scale variations, seasonal in situ bihourly monitoring of abiotic and phytoplankton components took place at a fixed location over a 24-h period on four sampling occasions. Four known HAB species were recorded at bloom concentrations (> 20 μg Chl-a L−1) during the study, including Heterosigma akashiwo, Heterocapsa rotundata, Mesodinium rubrum, and Karenia cf. mikimotoi. Model results identified temperature as a key driver, with distinct community shifts between winter (~H. rotundata and M. rubrum) and spring/summer (~H. akashiwo and K. cf. mikimotoi) conditions. Evidence of niche overlap between all four HAB taxa was highlighted by their predilection for elevated nitrate levels, a vertically stratified water column and mesohaline (ca. 10) surface waters. As such, internal biotic processes such as plasticity of diel vertical migration patterns, reliance of M. rubrum on suitable ‘prey’ resources, and the suppressive pressure of H. akashiwo on co-occurring taxa-explained phytoplankton community dynamics beyond the influence of physico-chemical variability. These findings provide novel insight regarding the ecology of HAB taxa and how they have adapted to thrive in anthropogenically manipulated environments.
Estuaries and Coasts – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 21, 2018
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