Determination of ecological status and ecological preferences of phytoplankton using multivariate approach in a Mediterranean reservoir
The control of phytoplankton growth is mainly related to the availability of light and nutrients. Both may select phytoplankton species, but only if they occur in limiting amounts. During the last decade, the functional groups approach, based on the physiological, morphological and ecological attributes of the species, has proved to be a more efficient way to analyze seasonal changes in phytoplankton biomass. We analysed the dynamics of the phytoplankton functional groups sensu Reynolds, recognising the driving forces (light, mixing regime, and nutrients) in the Sau Reservoir, based on a one-year cycle (monthly surface-water sampling). The Sau Reservoir is a Mediterranean water-supply reservoir with a canyon-shaped basin and a clear and mixed epilimnion layer. The long stratification period and high light availability led to high phytoplankton biomass (110.8 fresh-weight mg L(-1)) in the epilimnion during summer. The reservoir showed P-limitation for phytoplankton growth in this period. All functional groups included one or more species (X2-Rhodomonas spp.; Y-Cryptomonas spp.; F-Oocystis lacustris; K-Aphanocapsa spp.) selected by resources, especially phosphorus. Species of Cryptomonas (group Y) dominated during the mixing period (winter season) in conditions of low light and relatively high availability of dissolved nutrients. Increases in water-column stability during spring stratification led to phytoplankton biomass increases due to the dominance of small flagellate functional groups (X2 and X3, chrysophyceans). The colonial chlorophycean O. lacustris (group F) peaked during the mid-summer stratification, when the mixed epilimnion was clearly depleted in nutrients, especially SRP. High temperature and increases in nutrient concentration during the end-summer and mid-autumn resulted in a decrease of green algae (group F) and increase of Aphanocapsa spp. (cyanobacteria, group K) and dinoflagellates (group L(o)). The study also revealed the important role of physical processes in the seasonal gradient, in selecting phytoplankton functional groups, and consequently in the assessment of ecological status. The Q index (assemblage index) based on functional groups indicated the overall good ecological status of the Sau Reservoir, which varied as a function of the mixing regime. This is the first application of the Assemblage Index to a European water-supply reservoir.