TERRAPUB Journal of Oceanography

Journal of Oceanography, Vol. 58 (No. 2), pp. 281-294, 2002


Adaptive Ecology, Growth Strategies and the Global Bloom Expansion of Dinoflagellates

Theodore J. Smayda*

Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881, U.S.A.

(Received 26 August 2001; in revised form 17 October 2001; accepted 17 October 2001)

Abstract: Dinoflagellates exhibit unique differences from diatoms in their adaptive ecologies that may be favoring their increasingly successful exploitation of coastal waters and global bloom expansion. Dinoflagellates behave as annual species, bloom soloists, are ecophysiologically diverse and habitat specialists, whereas diatoms behave as perennial species, guild members and are habitat cosmopolites. Diatoms have a relatively uniform bloom strategy based on species-rich pools and exhibit limited habitat specialization. Dinoflagellates have multiple life-form strategies consistent with their diverse habitat specializations, but rely on impoverished bloom species pools. Niche structure and dinoflagellate competition for niche space are considered. The "open niche period" formulated originally for Narragansett Bay is extrapolated as a general bloom paradigm. It is suggested that successful niche occupancy leading to blooms involves adaptive strategies at three heirarchic taxonomic elements: phylogenetic, generic and species-specific, and in that sequence. Transoceanic expatriation of emigrant species leading to indigenous status and blooms requires completion of a three-stage colonization process. Anthropogenic seedings are not, in themselves, bloom stimulation events; they are only the first phase of a multiple-step process. The organismal and niche features required for a hidden flora member to become a bloom species are considered, and the interplay between niche structure, habitat carrying capacity, colonization requirements and stochasticity as factors in the changing global bloom behavior of dinoflagellates discussed. The question is posed whether traditional perspectives of phytoplankton behavior apply completely to dinoflagellates.

*Corresponding author E-mail: tsmayda@gso.uri.edu

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