EXAMINING TEMPORAL PATTERNS OF BENTHIC MICROALGAL COMMUNITY STRUCTURE IN A SOUTH CAROLINA SALTMARSH
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Waters, Josiah C
Benthic microalgae (BMA), like other microbes, have long been thought to be cosmopolitan in time and space, limited only by environmental conditions. More recently, it has been found that BMA do exhibit spatial and temporal dispersal limitations, and while the drivers and patterns of spatial dispersal limitation have been studied to some extent, studies examining temporal variation in BMA communities are lacking. In this study, DNA metabarcoding was used to characterize diatom communities at three temporal scales (seasonal, lunar phase, and tidal cycle) over one year. Several environmental parameters (31) were measured in order to identify potential drivers of any observed variation. Significant differences in community structure, biomass, and α-diversity were observed across season, particular lunar phases, and certain tidal cycles. Purely temporal and purely environmental factors did have some effect, but BMA community variation seemed to be primarily directed by temporally-structured environmental events and stochastic (or unmeasured) processes. These results show that time and environmental conditions worked together to produce fairly predictable patterns in BMA variability (at least at larger temporal scales). While further studies are necessary, it is possible that this increased understanding of BMA community variation will allow researchers to predict BMA and ecosystem changes in response to changes in the environment.