Food quality of anemophilous plant pollen for zooplankton

Hélène Masclaux, Alexandre Bec, Maiko Kagami, Marie-Elodie Perga, Telesphore Sime-Ngando, Christian Desvilettes and Gilles Bourdier

Limnol. Oceanogr., 56(3), 2011, 939-946 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2011.56.3.0939

ABSTRACT: Pollen rain can lead to considerable allochthonous particulate organic carbon input into freshwater systems. However, the importance of allochthonous pollen deposition for zooplankton production has not so far been considered. Here, standardized growth experiments were performed to assess the quality of pollen from three species (Alnus sp., Populus sp., and Cedrus sp.) as a food source for two cladocerans (Daphnia longispina and Simocephalus vetulus). Although lipid analysis revealed high polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) contents in pollen, both cladoceran species exhibited suboptimal development when directly fed on pollen (ranging from 0.2 d−1 to 0.3 d−1). The low food value of pollen was attributed to the presence of a refractory wall reducing its digestibility. In a second set of experiments, cladocerans were fed on a mixture of heterotrophic microorganisms (bacteria, chytrids, and protozoa) that had grown on pollen grains (Cedrus sp.). The introduction of microorganisms as an intermediate trophic level resulted in cladoceran growth rates that were about double those obtained on pollen alone. Hence, our findings suggest that pollen carbon could sustain zooplankton growth indirectly, and highlight the key role of microorganisms, and especially of chytrids, in transferring and upgrading pollen PUFA to higher trophic levels.

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