Diversity in planktonic communities: An experimental test of the intermediate disturbance hypothesis

Flöder, Sabine, Ulrich Sommer

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(4), 1999, 1114-1119 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.4.1114

ABSTRACT: According to Connell’s intermediate disturbance hypothesis (IDH), diversity within a community is maximal at intermediate frequencies and intensities of disturbances. In order to test the IDH, disturbances of different frequencies and intensities were imposed on natural plankton communities in controlled field experiments. These disturbances consisted of an artificial deepening of the mixed layer, leading to the dilution of epilimnetic populations and to a higher level of nutrients. Intervals between disturbances ranged from 2 to 12 d. Different intensities of disturbance were caused by differences in the experimental mixing depth (150 and 225% of the original epilimnion depth). Investigation focused on the effect that disturbances had on the diversity of natural phytoplankton communities. Additionally, we were interested in determining the effect of grazing by zooplankton. The results of the field experiments show for the first time the applicability of the IDH to phytoplankton within complete planktonic communities. Diversity showed a clear maximum at the intermediate disturbance interval of 6 d. Similarly, species number peaked at intermediate interval length (6-10 d).

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