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Cyanobacterial influence on diatom community lifeform dynamics in shallow subtropical lakes of Florida USA.

SelectedWorks Author Profiles:

Thomas J. Whitmore

Melanie Riedinger-Whitmore

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Fragilarioid diatom taxa are often deemed ubiquitous in shallow lake systems. Their presence has been described as contributing to statistical noise in paleolimnological studies of cold-temperate lakes. In shallow, warm-temperate lakes of Florida, long-term transitions from assemblages dominated by Aulacoseira spp. to fragilarioid taxa, particularly Pseudostaurosira brevistriata, Staurosira construens var. venter, and Staurosirella pinnata, often occur. Distinctly higher limnetic nutrient optima are demonstrated by these fragilarioid taxa than by planktonic Aulacoseira spp. Community successions occur during eutrophication, and progressive replacement of Aulacoseira spp. and other planktonic taxa by fragilarioid taxa is concurrent with and apparently related to the onset of cyanobacterial dominance. We examine successions from Aulacoseira-dominated to fragilarioid-dominated assemblages in sediment cores from subtropical Florida lakes that have undergone eutrophication. Diatom profiles are compared with sedimented pigments, nitrogen stable isotopes of organic matter, and with silica accumulation rates. These study lakes have little if any macrophyte presence. Their light-extinction depths are extremely shallow, yet diatom communities are dominated by bottom-dwelling rather than planktonic taxa. Frequent wind-generated mixing, sometimes to lake bottoms, is sufficient to sustain the light needs of benthic and tychoplanktonic taxa. We conclude that assemblage changes generally are not caused by reduced water depths, silica limitation, nor increased incipient stratification, but that cyanobacteria are responsible for reducing planktonic Aulacoseira in favor of fragilarioid taxa. Cyanobacteria blooms persist over a wide seasonal range because of warm climate and high limnetic nutrient concentrations in Florida lakes. Cyanobacteria progressively displace and outcompete Aulacoseira and other planktonic taxa as eutrophication proceeds. Reduced light availability, changes in mineral/nutrient availability, and other aspects of competitive exclusion, such as cyanobacterial allelotoxins, might contribute to observed changes. Climate warming is not likely to account for Aulacoseira reduction as in colder regions because it is less pronounced in this subtropical district. Lakes with low nutrient levels and less cyanobacteria still sustain large Aulacoseira populations, and decreases in limnetic nutrients sometimes lead to the return of planktonic Aulacoseira. Rather than simply representing statistical noise for paleolimnological reconstructions, shifts to certain fragilarioid taxa indicate when subtropical Florida lakes progressed to hypereutrophic conditions that were marked by cyanobacterial proliferation.


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