Significance of Plankton Community Structure and Nutrient Availability for the Control of Dinoflagellate Blooms by Parasites: A Modeling Approach

Article Title:
Significance of Plankton Community Structure and Nutrient Availability for the Control of Dinoflagellate Blooms by Parasites: A Modeling Approach

Catharina Alves-de-Souza, David Pecqueur, Emilie Le Floc’h, Sébastien Mas, Cécile Roques, Behzad Mostajir, Franscesca Vidussi, Lourdes Velo-Suárez, Marc Sourisseau, Eric Fouilland, Laure Guillou

01 Jun 2015 PLOS ONE

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This is only the lead paragraph to their discussion section, but it’s great:

Eutrophication has been indicated as one of the main factors contributing to the increase in frequency and geographic distribution of HABs observed in the past decades [39]. In this context, considerable effort has been made to understand how changing nutrient concentrations and ratios result in the tendency of toxic or otherwise harmful opportunistic algal species to bloom (reviewed by [6]). However, blooms should not be considered to be exclusively regulated by abiotic factors as they are also under biological control [40]. In this study, numerical simulations indicated that parasites had greater impact on the development of dinoflagellate blooms than microciliates (as previously pointed out by [15]). Grazing by microzooplankton has been proposed as an important mechanism controlling dinoflagellate blooms since protistan grazers are capable of growing as fast as their phytoplankton preys [41]. However, the generally high prey threshold of microzooplankton organisms such as ciliates implies a large time delay in their numerical-functional responses (i.e., increase/decrease in growth and grazing rates of predators according to the total amount of available preys) [20]. The sensitivity analysis of our model indicated that dinoflagellate abundance was sensitive to changes in the values of the half saturation constant for ciliate growth (Fig 4). This is in agreement with simulations performed by Montagnes et al. [15] where ciliates were only able to control dinoflagellate blooms when values for their grazing parameters were lower than recorded in the literature. As a consequence, although microzooplankton is capable of eliminating dinoflagellate blooms once they are established [16, 42], they are not likely to be capable of preventing their initiation [20].

Parasites of genus Amoebophrya have been identified as potentially important biotic factors controlling dinoflagellate blooms [13, 14].

Nutrient availability affected parasitic control of dinoflagellates, but the magnitude of this effect was likely determined by the presence/absence as well as the relative abundance of other members of the plankton community which would exert direct and/or indirect effects on host-parasite dynamics. When host and parasites were considered independently, parasites exerted a complete control on the dinoflagellate host (Fig 1D and 1E), as expected from previous results of both experimental and modeling studies [12, 18]. We expected that the addition of grazers to this simple system would affect host-parasite dynamics, since it has been shown that grazing on the free-living stages of parasites could significantly diminish parasite prevalence in plankton systems [9, 17, 44]. However, while grazers by themselves were not important (Fig 1F and 1G), differences in both parasite prevalence and dinospore density related to nutrient concentrations were greatly magnified by the addition of other phytoplankton (Fig 1H and 1I).

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