Enhancement of algal growth and productivity by grazing zooplankton

K G Porter


Colonies of the common planktonic green alga, Sphaerocystis schroeteri, are only partially disrupted and assimilated by Daphnia magna, a natural predator. The Daphnia break up the outer protective gelatinous sheath that surrounds Sphaerocystis colonies, but most of the algal cells emerge from Daphnia guts intact and in viable condition. During gut passage, these viable cells take up nutrients, such as phosphorus, both from algal remains and from Daphnia metabolites. This nutrient supply stimulates algal carbon fixation and cell division. Enhanced algal growth, observed after gut passage, can compensate for the minor losses to the population caused by grazing. Nutrients regenerated by grazers may produce the summer bloom of gelatinous green algae during the seasonal succession of lake phytoplankton.


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