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Role of abiotic and biotic factors in structuring the metazoan plankton community in a lowland river

Rossetti, Giampaolo, Viaroli, Pierluigi, Ferrari, Ireneo
River research and applications 2009 v.25 no.7 pp. 814-835
Brachionus, adverse effects, biomass, chlorophyll, correlation, dissolved inorganic nitrogen, grazing, hydrology, models, phosphorus, rivers, water temperature, zooplankton, Italy
Water and quantitative zooplankton samples were collected at approximately monthly intervals from June 2000 to June 2002 in the middle section of the Po River (Northern Italy). Highly variable hydrological conditions were observed in the 2 years, with river flow varying approximately between 400 and 9300 m³ s⁻¹. Dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) usually decreased at higher river discharges. Autotrophic production was limited by phosphorus availability during the growing period (May-October); no significant adverse effect of zooplankton grazing upon algal biomass was detected. A total of 161 zooplankton taxa were found. The records of the rotifers Lecane incospicua, L. cornuta, Proales sigmoidea, Cephalodella limosa, and of the cladoceran Phrixura leei were new for Italy. Rotifers strikingly were the most abundant group over the entire sampling period. Zooplankton abundance was positively correlated to water temperature and chlorophyll-a concentration, and only in warmer months inversely correlated to river flow. Species of the genus Brachionus were responsible for the two density peaks (>1000 ind L⁻¹) of the rotifer taxocoenosis observed in July 2000 and August 2001, coinciding with chlorophyll-a peaks higher than 50 μg L⁻¹ and minima of Shannon equitability index. Water temperature, chlorophyll-a, and soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) were found to be the most important variables in explaining the observed rotifer assemblages by Canonical Correspondence Analysis. A simple descriptive model is proposed to represent the combined influence of abiotic constraints and biotic interactions on the zooplankton abundance and diversity in the middle reach of the Po River.