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Title: Relative importance of top‐down vs. bottom‐up control of lake phytoplankton vertical distributions varies among fluorescence‐based spectral groups

The relative importance of top‐down vs. bottom‐up control of phytoplankton biomass in aquatic ecosystems has been long debated and studied. However, few studies have considered the relative importance of top‐down vs. bottom‐up control on phytoplankton vertical distributions and characteristics of deep chlorophyll maxima (DCMs), and fewer still have investigated the importance of these drivers for multiple phytoplankton groups. We examined depth profiles of four phytoplankton spectral groups and a suite of top‐down (zooplankton) and bottom‐up (nutrients, temperature, and light) drivers from 51 north temperate lakes varying on gradients of size, trophic state, light availability, and thermal stratification. We used regression trees to identify the most important drivers of different vertical distribution metrics for each phytoplankton spectral group. The relative importance of top‐down vs. bottom‐up control varied across spectral groups and was related to the characteristics of the dominant taxa within each spectral group, as assessed by microscope counts. Zooplankton biomass was the most important driver of brown algae vertical distributions, likely because this group contained highly edible taxa (primarily chrysophytes), while thermal stratification predicted vertical distributions of buoyancy‐regulating cyanobacteria. Our work highlights the importance of examining phytoplankton community composition to improve understanding of DCM characteristics and top‐down vs. bottom‐up more » control of phytoplankton in aquatic systems.

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Award ID(s):
1702506 1737424 1753639
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Limnology and Oceanography
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 2485-2501
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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