|First, M.R., H. L. Miller III, P. J. Lavrentyev, J. L. Pinckney , and A. B. Burd
, Microzooplankton growth and trophic interactions and their effects on herbivory in coastal and offshore environments
, Aquatic Microbial Ecology, 2009|
We performed serial dilution experiments to estimate rates of phytoplankton growth (μ) and grazing mortality (m) in both eutrophic (Corpus Christi Bay, TX, USA) and oligotrophic (offshore Gulf of Mexico) waters. Two parallel experiments were performed in both environments, with seawater pre-screened through 153 or 25μm mesh to observe the responses of microzooplankton (MZP) to dilution treatments. MZP biomass changed over the duration of the experimental incubations; in several treatments MZP net growth rates were >1 d-1. Patterns of growth varied between dilutions and initial screening size. In the eutrophic system, the ratio of phytoplankton grazing mortality to phytoplankton growth (m/μ) was 1.10 (± 0.49 SD) versus 0.41 (± 0.65) when screened through 153 and 25 μm mesh, respectively. This difference was attributed to cascading trophic interactions among MZP size groups leading to suppression of the primary herbivores in the 25 μm fraction and, in turn, a lower value of m. A food web model consisting of multiple trophic levels was constructed to examine the role of MZP growth and trophic interactions on measurements of μ and m. The model, using three interacting groups of MZP, was able to reproduce experimental results. Model simulations demonstrated that MZP growth during incubation leads to an overestimation of m. Nonlinearity in the phytoplankton growth response curves was due to MZP growth and trophic interactions in these model simulations, as variable feeding responses were not incorporated into the models. Trophic interactions among MZP can provide context to measurements of μ and m and insight into microbial food web efficiency.