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Ecological background of diatom functional groups: Comparability of classification systems

B-Béres, Viktória, Török, Péter, Kókai, Zsuzsanna, Lukács, Áron, T-Krasznai, Enikő, Tóthmérész, Béla, Bácsi, István
Ecological indicators 2017 v.82 pp. 183-188
Bacillariophyceae, community ecology, environmental factors, phytoplankton, rivers, streams
Functional classification based on species traits brought a revolution in community ecology, and also boosted phytoplankton and in phytobenton (diatom) research. Several studies stressed the usefulness of phytoplankton functional groups in ecological status assessment, and there is also a strong emphasis to use combined traits in ecological assessments of diatom assemblages. The Combined Eco-Morphological Functional Groups (CEMFGs) help to reveal species-environmental correlations, which can be hidden, controlling traits separately. Nowadays, there are three types of functional guild classifications simultaneously used in the literature: (i) the original classification proposed by Passy (O); (ii) Passy’s classification complemented with a separated planktic guild (P); (iii) the refined guild classification by Rimet and Bouchez, also containing the planktic guild (RB). One of the most important criteria of the combined functional groups is the well-defined ecological frame of these combined groups; thus it is vital to harmonise the classification of the taxa into guild based combined eco-morphological functional groups (CEMFGs). In this study we tested the similarities and dissimilarities of the correlations between environmental factors and CEMFGs created in the (i)-(iii) classifications. Samples were collected in 138 sampling sites on lowland rivers and streams in the Hungarian Lowland Region. Strong correlations were anticipated between the functional groups and environmental factors due to the presence of common and/or abundant planktic taxa. Our results validated the necessity of a separated planktic guild in ecological assessments of diatom assemblages. Further relevant differences between the correlations of CEMFGs-P or CEMFGs-RB and abiotic factors were hypothesised in the case of those functional groups which contained reassigned taxa with high frequency and/or abundance. Our results confirmed this hypothesis. Furthermore, the present study also highlighted the relevance of well-defined trait classification. Abundant and/or frequent taxa, which are able to change their life forms, can modify significantly the relationship between the functional group containing them and environmental factors. In the future, both field and laboratory studies should focus on revealing the circumstances, which cause the mentioned changes in traits of diatoms.