Estuarine coastal and shelf science vol:82 issue:2 pages:335-340
Phytoplankton diversity and community composition were studied along the Schelde river-estuary-coastal zone continuum during the summer of 2003. DCA analysis indicated a gradual compositional turnover of the phytoplankton community within the estuary. GAM modelling of species response curves along the estuarine gradient was used to identify taxa that had their population maximum in the river, the coastal zone or within the estuary. Taxa that had their population maximum within the estuary did not form a homogenous community but comprised species with different salinity optima and rather restricted salinity tolerances. The observed changes in community composition along the estuarine transition zone correspond more closely to an ecocline than to an ecotone model. Despite the fact that few taxa had their population maximum at or near the salinity gradient, alpha diversity did not display a minimum around the salinity gradient. This lack of a diversity minimum within the estuary was ascribed to an important contribution of taxa of riverine or coastal origin to alpha diversity within the estuary contributed. On average 55% of the alpha diversity in the estuarine samples was due to riverine or coastal taxa. Beta diversity displayed a clear maximum around the salinity gradient. For planktonic organisms which are subject to mass effects, beta diversity is probably a better indicator for the impact of the salinity gradient on diversity in estuaries than alpha diversity. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.