Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Lotic bacterioplankton and phytoplankton community changes under dissolved organic-carbon amendment: evidence for competition for nutrients

R. L. Carney A D , J. R. Seymour A , D. Westhorpe B and S. M. Mitrovic B C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster (C3), University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia.

B Department of Primary Industries, Water, PO Box 3720, Sydney, NSW 2024, Australia.

C Applied Ecology Team, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: richard.carney@uts.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 67(9) 1362-1373 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF15372
Submitted: 30 September 2015  Accepted: 17 February 2016   Published: 24 May 2016

Abstract

During periods of low river discharge, bacterial growth is typically limited by dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and is tightly regulated by phytoplankton production. However, import of allochthonous DOC into rivers by freshwater inflows may diminish bacterial reliance on phytoplankton-produced carbon, leading to competition for nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). To investigate phytoplankton–bacterial competition in response to allochthonous inputs, we conducted a mesocosm experiment, comparing microbial responses to the following two manipulation treatments: (1) addition of N and P, and (2) addition of a DOC and N and P. Measurement of chlorophyll-a estimated phytoplankton biomass and microscopic counts were performed to discriminate community change. Bacterial abundance was tracked using flow cytometry and community assemblages were characterised using automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analyses and 16S rRNA-amplicon sequencing. We found that bacterial abundance increased in the leachate addition, whereas chlorophyll-a was reduced and the bacterial community shifted to one dominated by heterotrophic genera, and autotrophic microbes including Synechococcus and Cyclotella increased significantly in the nutrient treatment. These observations indicated that DOC and nutrient inputs can lead to shifts in the competitive dynamics between bacteria and phytoplankton, reducing phytoplankton biomass, which may potentially shift the major pathway of carbon to higher trophic organisms, from the phytoplankton grazer chain to the microbial food web.


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