Regional species pools control community saturation in lake phytoplankton

Robert Ptacnik*, Tom Andersen, Pål Brettum, Liisa Lepistö, Eva Willén

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    72 Citations (Scopus)


    Recent research has highlighted that positive biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships hold for all groups of organisms, including microbes. Yet, we still lack understanding regarding the drivers of microbial diversity, in particular, whether diversity of microbial communities is a matter of local factors, or whether metacommunities are of similar importance to what is known from higher organisms. Here, we explore the driving forces behind spatial variability in lake phytoplankton diversity in Fennoscandia. While phytoplankton biovolume is best predicted by local phosphorus concentrations, phytoplankton diversity (measured as genus richness, G) only showed weak correlations with local concentrations of total phosphorus. By estimating spatial averages of total phosphorus concentrations on various scales from an independent, spatially representative lake survey, we found that close to 70 per cent of the variability in local phytoplankton diversity can be explained by regionally averaged phosphorus concentrations on a scale between 100 and 400 km. Thus, the data strongly indicate the existence of metacommunities on this scale. Furthermore, we show a strong dependency between lake productivity and spatial community turnover. Thus, regional productivity affects beta-diversity by controlling spatial community turnover, resulting in scale-dependent productivity-diversity relationships. As an illustration of the interaction between local and regional processes in shaping microbial diversity, our results offer both empirical support and a plausible mechanism for the existence of common scaling rules in both the macrobial and the microbial worlds. We argue that awareness of regional species pools in phytoplankton and other unicellular organisms may critically improve our understanding of ecosystems and their susceptibility to anthropogenic stressors.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3755-3764
    Number of pages10
    JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
    Issue number1701
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2010


    • Biodiversity
    • Ecosystem functioning
    • Lakes
    • Metacommunities
    • Microbial diversity
    • Phytoplankton


    Dive into the research topics of 'Regional species pools control community saturation in lake phytoplankton'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this