Main content area

Interactions between suspended particulate matter and algal cells contributed to the reconstruction of phytoplankton communities in turbulent waters

Kang, Li, He, Yixin, Dai, Lichun, He, Qiang, Ai, Hainan, Yang, Guofeng, Liu, Ming, Jiang, Wei, Li, Hong
Water research 2019 v.149 pp. 251-262
algae, dominant species, ecosystems, particle size, particulates, phytoplankton, turbulent flow
The effect of turbulence on phytoplankton growth has been widely studied; however, its effects with respects to suspended particulate matter (SPM) on the development of phytoplankton communities and the behavioral responses of phytoplankton to turbulence and SPM are poorly understood. Here, an approximately homogeneous turbulence simulation system (AHTS, mainly consisting of an oscillating-grid apparatus) was established to gain insight into the mechanisms underlying phytoplankton community responses in turbid, well-mixed waters. The results revealed that maintaining the turbulence dissipation rates (Ɛ) of 2.25 × 10−3 and 1.80 × 10−2 m2/s3 caused significant reductions in algal density, and the effects could be substantially enhanced when 500 mg/L of SPM were added before day 12. In contrast to the constant decrease of algal density for the Ɛ of 2.25 × 10−3 m2/s3, a dramatic increase in the phytoplankton density occurred after 16 days of incubation for a Ɛ of 1.80 × 10−2 m2/s3, irrespective of SPM. Addition of SPM in the Ɛ of 1.80 × 10−2 m2/s3 treatments did not considerably affect the algal density profile compared to that without SPM, of which unicellular algae decreased and colonial algae dominated the phytoplankton community. On the other hand, the phytoplankton can regulate the SPM properties. During the 18 days’ coincubation, extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) released from algal cells induced larger particle sizes and round surfaces of SPM, which can reduce the damage received to algal cells. Here we demonstrated that the phytoplankton communities could actively counteract the effects of turbulence + SPM and adapt the couple stress, jointly through the release of EPS, the modification of SPM surface properties and the conversion of their assemblage pattern, thereby contributing to rebalance the ecosystem. These findings highlight the strategies employed during the reconstruction of phytoplankton under the dual effects of turbulence and SPM for the first time, consequently enabling the forecasting of the dominant species of phytoplankton in turbulent waters.