Adaptive significance of phytoplankton stickiness with emphasis on the diatom Skeletonema costatum

J.L.S. Hansen, U. Timm, Thomas Kiørboe

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Diatom aggregate formation was analyzed using coagulation theory. Population dynamics models show that coagulation has an important impact on species succession during diatom blooms. When different species collide and form mixed aggregates this process causes interspecific interference competition within the diatom community. The outcome can be predicted by a set of simple differential equations. For a two-species system the equations reduce to the Lotka-Volterra two-species competition model. The outcome of this interference competition depends on species-specific growth rates, cell sizes, stickiness and on the species composition of the seeding populations of a bloom. Due to mutual flocculation some species may disappear from the environment. Small and fast growing diatoms are favoured by high stickiness coefficients. The impact of stickiness on species succession was found to be-most pronounced in eutrophic and hydro-graphically isolated environments. The sticking properties of the diatom Skeletonema costatum are discussed in an evolutionary context; we suggest that mutual coagulation increases the abundance of S. costatum relative to other diatom species in coastal areas. The model was tested on field data, and the predicted dynamics of a spring bloom was very similar to that observed
Original languageEnglish
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)667-676
Publication statusPublished - 1995


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