Community assembly and seasonal succession of marine dinoflagellates in a temperate estuary: The importance of life cycle events
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Dinoflagellate successional strategies and community structure were investigated in Perch Pond, a temperate estuary on the North American east coast by field surveys as well as laboratory investigations on growth rates, cyst maturation period, and cyst germination temperature thresholds. The dominant species were those predicted by the Smayda and Reynolds Rules of Assembly life form model. Three successional strategies were characterized: (1) holoplanktonic, (2) meroplanktonic (i.e., germinated from cysts), and (3) introduced by advection. The seasonal succession of the meroplanktonic dinoflagellates that were studied reflects the differential lengths of their mandatory dormancy periods as well as differences in their temperature thresholds or "windows" for germination. The holoplanktonic species present at low densities year-round in Perch Pond had a wide temperature tolerance for growth and thus did not need a cyst stage to survive seasonal extremes. Another non-cyst-forming species relied solely on advection to inoculate the salt pond; thus, blooms in successive years would be expected to be more stochastic in nature than for the other two strategies. The timing of cyst formation and population decline for meroplanktonic species corresponded on several occasions to an increase in grazers, suggesting that grazing might have contributed to bloom decline from cyst formation. This timing also suggests the possibility of encystment as a predator avoidance strategy. We suggest that seasonal succession of cyst-forming dinoflagellates is not stochastic. Instead, the appearance of these species in the plankton is predictable on the basis of measurable physiological responses to both endogenous and exogenous factors that they experience during dormancy and quiescence.