Insights into the loss factors of phytoplankton blooms : the role of cell mortality in the decline of two inshore Alexandrium blooms

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Choi, Chang Jae
Brosnahan, Michael L.
Sehein, Taylor R.
Anderson, Donald M.
Erdner, Deana L.
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Phytoplankton bloom dynamics
Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) declines
Phytoplankton mortality
Programmed cell death (PCD)
Life cycle transitions
Alexandrium fundyense
While considerable effort has been devoted to understanding the factors regulating the development of phytoplankton blooms, the mechanisms leading to bloom decline and termination have received less attention. Grazing and sedimentation have been invoked as the main routes for the loss of phytoplankton biomass, and more recently, viral lysis, parasitism and programmed cell death (PCD) have been recognized as additional removal factors. Despite the importance of bloom declines to phytoplankton dynamics, the incidence and significance of various loss factors in regulating phytoplankton populations have not been widely characterized in natural blooms. To understand mechanisms controlling bloom decline, we studied two independent, inshore blooms of Alexandrium fundyense, paying special attention to cell mortality as a loss pathway. We observed increases in the number of dead cells with PCD features after the peak of both blooms, demonstrating a role for cell mortality in their terminations. In both blooms, sexual cyst formation appears to have been the dominant process leading to bloom termination, as both blooms were dominated by small-sized gamete cells near their peaks. Cell death and parasitism became more significant as sources of cell loss several days after the onset of bloom decline. Our findings show two distinct phases of bloom decline, characterized by sexual fusion as the initial dominant cell removal processes followed by elimination of remaining cells by cell death and parasitism.
Author Posting. © The Author(s), 2017. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here under a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license granted to WHOI. It is made available for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Limnology and Oceanography 62 (2017): 1742–1753, doi:10.1002/lno.10530.
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