Good Reasons and Guidance for Mapping Planktonic Protist Distributions
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Analysing the spatio-temporal distribution of protistan microplankton has faced both conceptual and technical difficulties. However, recognition of a need to study planktonic patchiness, application of a major geology-based methodology (geostatistics) to ecology, and advances in computational technologies have widened the interest in this topic and made it more assessable. This review provides methodological and conceptual guidance on the application of geostatistics to microplankton analysis, using ciliates as example model organisms. Applying geostatistical analysis (and complementary methodologies) to the distribution of ciliate and phytoplankton reveals that attributes of their populations and assemblages (e.g. abundance, biomass, production, diversity) are patchily distributed at multiple spatial-scales in different aquatic environments, and these change over time. Data examined from several environments and scales exhibit distinct patterns of patches regarding their shape, density, and structure; these data can then be used to suggest a behavioural niche-separation of ciliates and the influence of patchiness on the rate processes of food webs. Throughout the review, basic guidance is provided for interpreting where, when, and why planktonic ciliate are so distributed, and directions for work on patchiness is offered, including a guide to the main literature on the topic. This should, therefore, be a useful stepping-stone for researchers interested in the impact of patchiness on protistan ecology, regardless of the environment.
11 - 09 - 2015
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