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Modelling mixotrophic functional diversity and implications for ecosystem function

Gonçalves Leles, Suzana, Polimene, Luca, Bruggeman, Jorn, Blackford, Jeremy, Ciavatta, Stefano, Mitra, Aditee ORCID: and Flynn, Kevin John 2018. Modelling mixotrophic functional diversity and implications for ecosystem function. Journal of Plankton Research 40 (6) , pp. 627-642. 10.1093/plankt/fby044

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Mixotrophy is widespread among protist plankton displaying diverse functional forms within a wide range of sizes. However, little is known about the niches of different mixotrophs and how they affect nutrient cycling and trophodynamics in marine ecosystems. Here we built a plankton food web model incorporating mixotrophic functional diversity. A distinction was made between mixotrophs with the innate capacity for photosynthesis (constitutive mixotrophs, CMs) and those which acquire phototrophy from their prey (non-constitutive mixotrophs, NCMs). We present the simulations of ecosystems limited by different light and nutrient regimes. Our simulations show that strict autotrophic and heterotrophic competitors increased in relative importance in the transition from nutrient to light limitation, consistent with observed oceanic biomass ratios. Among CMs, cells <20 μm dominate in nutrient-poor conditions while larger cells dominate in light-limited environments. The specificity of the prey from which NCMs acquire their phototrophic potential affects their success, with forms able to exploit diverse prey dominating under nutrient limitation. Overall, mixotrophy decreases the regeneration of inorganics and boosts the trophic transfer efficiency of carbon. Our results show that mixotrophic functional diversity has the potential to radically change our understanding of the ecosystem functioning in the lower trophic levels of food webs.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Oxford University Press (OUP): Policy B - Oxford Open Option A
ISSN: 0142-7873
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2022 09:37

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