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Phytoplankton. Announcements: Exam: next Wednesday Review Tuesday pm at Olin O4 (here?!). Concentrations same, volume different Same productivity ~~ same decomposition (O 2 demand). Little to no photosynthesis (why?) Not really strong stratification under ice (why?).

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  • Announcements:
    • Exam: next Wednesday
    • Review Tuesday pm at Olin O4 (here?!)
Concentrations same, volume different

Same productivity ~~ same decomposition (O2 demand)

Little to no photosynthesis (why?)

Not really strong stratification under ice (why?)

Two nearby lakes are similar in area and productivity, but one experiences winterkills, and the other does not. Why?
Lake Washington

Deep basin that never went anoxic so little to know internal loading (P buried in sediments; how?)

Forested and urban water (little non-point sources of P; why?)

Low WRT (after sewage was diverted, P-laden water quickly washed out)

Doesn’t work when…

Hypolimnion goes anoxic, resulting in lots of internal loading of P (how does this work?)

Non-point sources of P persist (like what?)

Explain why Lake Washington's watershed, morphology and flushing rate influenced recovery from nutrient loading. WHY are these characteristics important? Under what conditions (lake characteristics) would simply reducing P-inputs not work? Why not?

  • Plankton: organisms that weakly swim or go where the water takes them
      • Phytoplankton
  • Periphyton: benthic algae
  • Epiphyton: algae growing on macrophytes
phytoplankton taxonomy
Phytoplankton taxonomy
  • Was once based on morphology or pigments, now more molecular. See Graham and Wilcox 2000 Algae for more information.
  • Usually grouped in Divisions (VARIABLE!)
  • Also often grouped by
    • Size
    • Mobility (motility)
      • Flagella: movable filament that can be used to propel organism through the water
      • Gas vacuoles
phytoplankton groupings con t
Phytoplankton groupings, con't
  • Origin:
    • Periphyton (benthic)
    • Tychoplankton (detach from benthos)
    • Meroplankton (part of life on sediments)
    • Euplankton/holoplankton (entire life in water column)
    • Potomoplankton (resuspended algae in lotic systems)
phytoplankton taxonomy divisions
Phytoplankton Taxonomy (Divisions)
  • Cyanophyta - cyanobacteria
  • Chlorophyta - green algae
  • Euglenophyta - single flagella
  • Bacillariophyta - diatoms
  • Chrysophyta - golden brown algae
  • Cryptophyta - flagellated
  • Pyrophyta - dinoflagellates
cyanobacteria 1 350 species
Cyanobacteria ~1,350 species
  • Prokaryotes: lack plastids and distinct membrane bound nucleus
  • Photosynthesize functionally like plants
  • Chloroplasts of other algae and plants originated from cyanobacteria through endosymbiosis
cyanobacteria con t
Often dominant, esp. eutrophic lakes

Some species fix N (heterocysts)

Large cyanobacteria often dominate due to disproportionate losses of other species

Allelopathy (toxic or inhibitory effects on other species)

Buoyant (gas vacuoles)

Cyanobacteria, con't

Anabaena 400x


cyanobacteria con t11
Cyanobacteria, con't
  • Resting stages:
      • thick-walled resting cells (cysts) called akinetes (Anabaena & Aphanizomenon)
      • Vegetative resting stage (Mycrocystis)
  • linkage between benthos and pelagic
chlorophyta green algae 2 400 species
Chlorophyta: Green algae ~2,400 species
  • Eukaryotes
  • Includes unicellular flagellated and nonflagellated cells, colonies and filaments and macroalgae (Chara)
  • Represent 40-60% species with high biomass contribution in eutrophic and hypereutrophic lakes
  • Often dominate benthic algae

Chlamydomonas 400x

Hydrodictyon 40x

Spirogyra 200x


Cladophora 40x

euglenophyta 1 020 species

Euglena eukaryotic/01232001.html mainpage.htm

Euglenophyta ~1,020 species
  • Small to medium sized flagellated species
  • Often abundant in well-mixed eutrophic ponds and littoral areas
bacillariophyta diatoms 5 000 species
Bacillariophyta - diatoms ~5,000 species
  • Wide range in size: 2um - 2mm
  • Require silica (Si) to build frustules
      • abundant during mixing when Si abundant
      • when lake stratifies, diatoms sink to bottom & remove Si from epilimnion
  • Heavy & no flagella: sink after stratification & form resting stage on sediments: viable after 100's years
  • Two groups:
    • pennate: bilaterally symmetrical
    • centric: radially symmetrical
diatoms eukaryotic/diatoms.jpg Biology/Bio122/week1.htm

chrysophyta 450 species
Chrysophyta ~450 species
  • Small single-celled flagellates and flagellated colonies
  • Common in oligotrophic clear lakes and humic lakes
  • Often codominate with cryptophytes
  • Diatoms are often grouped under chrysophyta


cryptophyta 100 species
Cryptophyta ~100 species
  • Small or medium-sized flagellates
  • Common in oligotrophic lakes
  • Single-cell cryptophytes, chrysophytes, dinoflagellates main food of rotifers and crustacean zooplankton (next week!)
  • Mixotrophic (more than one more of nutrition): eat bacteria & smallest algae

pyrophyta dinoflagellates 220 species

Ceratium Biology/Bio122/week1.htm


Pyrophyta - dinoflagellates ~ 220 species
  • Motile (flagellates)
  • Have resting cysts
  • Some do not have chlorophyll
  • Red tide in the ocean

E Daphnia head

(e - eye) (large zooplankton)

  • Picoplankton (0.2-2 m dia)
  • Nanoplankton (2-30 m dia)
  • Microplankton (30-200 m dia)
  • < 30 m = edible algae

A bacterium

C Scenedesmus (green)

B Cryptomonas (Cryptomonad)

D Keratella (small zooplankton)

influences of size
Influences of size
  • Pico- and nanoplankton: high rates of production
      • Large surface to volume ratio (exchange of nutrients)
      • Very slow sinking rates
      • Nanoplankton are tasty
  • Microplankton
      • Sink faster
      • Grow slower
      • Not tasty
extracellular release of organic compounds
Extracellular release of organic compounds
  • Represent a significant loss of fixed C (<20%)
  • Multiple functions:
    • modify growth & behavior
    • e.g., fischerellin released by cyanobacteria; inhibits photosynthesis by algae
  • Release of metabolic intermediates of low molecular weight by diffusion

(glycolic acid, organic acids, organic phosphates, peptides…)

  • Release of metabolic end products of high molecular weight more deliberate (?)

(carbohydrates, peptides, volitile compounds, growth-promoting and growth-inhibiting compounds)

  • Bacteria rapidly utilize LMW compounds
  • Photosynthesis= fixing carbon

nCO2 + nH2O ------> (CH2O)n + nO2 (n=# molecules)

  • Change in population biomass = growth - consumption - sinking
  • Growth=photosynthesis
compensation point
Compensation point
  • Compensation point:

photosynthesis = respiration

  • Maximize the amount of time spent above the compensation point (in the light)
ways to stay in light
Ways to stay in light
  • Mixing
      • sink slow enough to stay in mixed epilimnion
  • Mobility
      • flagella
      • gas vacuoles
  • Change sinking rate
      • change shape or density

Muscilaginous cover around Staurastrum species (green)

- reduce sinking (to a point)

- reduce consumption (or digestion)

effects of light temperature on photosynthesis






rxns limited

by temp)

Photosynthesis rate (mg C)








Available light

Effects of light & temperature on photosynthesis
photosynthesis distribution specific primary production light climate algae biomass
Photosynthesis distribution=specific primary production * light climate * algae biomass



Mesotrophic epilimnion (well mixed)

Eutrophic with surface bloom

Oligotrophic with max. biomass at metalimnion

Shallow transparent lakes with max. biomass on bottom


depth distribution of photosynthesis
Depth distribution of photosynthesis

Trophogenic zone ~

euphotic zone

Note that phytoplankton on the surface of hypereutrophic lakes shade out the water column

horizontal distribution
Horizontal distribution
  • Wind & currents

surface algae

Langmuir spirals



Neg. buoyant


Foam, buoyant algae

horizontal distribution34
Horizontal distribution

Proximity to littoral zone often results in less phytoplankton

  • Must compete for nutrients with periphytic algae and other microorganisms attached to macrophytes and sediments
  • Macrophytes are refuge for herbivorous zooplankton
factors influencing seasonal distribution
Factors influencing seasonal distribution


  • Temperature
  • Light

Limiting nutrients

  • silica
  • nitrogen
  • phosphorus


  • competition
  • resources, sinking


  • grazing
  • parasitism
1. Light limited: small, often motile (but productive)

2. Light increasing,still ice cover, no mixing (dynoflagellates can swim up towards light)

5. Clearwater phase: high light availability, warm temperatures, but many herbivores and reduction of nutrients leads to population crashes
6. Mid-summer stratification: Cyanobacteria dominate (fix N, migrate between nutrient-rich lower depths & epilimnion)
7. Fall mixing: high nutrients, less light, diatoms dominate again with increases in Si

8. Late autumn decline