Phytoplankton realized Niches Track changing oceanic conditions at a long-term coastal station offSydney Australia

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Frontiers in Marine Science, 2018, 5 (AUG)
Issue Date:
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© 2018 Ajani, McGinty, Finkel and Irwin. Phytoplankton dynamics are closely linked to the ocean-climate system with evidence that changing ocean conditions are substantially altering phytoplankton biogeography, abundance and phenology. Using phytoplankton community composition and environmental data spanning 1965 to 2013 from a long-term Pacific Ocean coastal station offshore from Sydney, Australia (Port Hacking 100 m), we used the Maximum Entropy Modelling framework (MaxEnt) to test whether phytoplankton realized niches are fixed or shift in response to changing environmental conditions. The mean niches of phytoplankton closely tracked changes in mean temperature, while the mean salinity and mixed layer depth realized niches were consistently at the extreme range of available conditions. Prior studies had shown a fixed niche for nitrate in some phytoplankton species at a site where nitrate concentration was decreasing and potentially limiting; however, at Port Hacking nitrate and silicate niches increased more rapidly than environmental conditions, apparently in response to periodic occurrences of elevated nutrient concentrations. This study provides further evidence that climate change model projections cannot assume fixed realized niches of biotic communities, whilst highlighting the importance of sustained ocean measurements from the southern hemisphere to enhance our understanding of global ocean trends.
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