The influence of the size distribution of phytoplankton on changes in the planktonic food web structures with eutrophication was examined using natural planktonic communities in two world-famous lakes: Lake Baikal and Lake Biwa. The size distribution of phytoplankton and the ratio of heterotrophic to autotrophic biomass (H/A ratio), indicating the balance between primary production and its consumption, were investigated in the lakes of different trophic status. The results revealed that microphytoplankton (>20μm) in mesotrophic Lake Biwa, and picophytoplankton (<2μm) or nanophytoplankton (2-20μm) in oligotrophic Lake Baikal, comprised the highest proportion of the total phytoplankton biomass. The H/A ratio was lower in Lake Biwa (<1) than in Lake Baikal (>1). The low H/A ratio in Lake Biwa appeared to be the consequence of the lack of consumption of the more abundant microphytoplankton, which were inferior competitors in nutrient uptake under oligotrophic conditions but less vulnerable to grazing. As a result, unconsumed microphytoplankton accumulated in the water column, decreasing the H/A ratio in Lake Biwa. Our results showed that food web structure and energy flow in planktonic communities were greatly influenced by the size distribution of phytoplankton, in conjunction with bottom-up (nutrient uptake) and top-down (grazing) effects at the trophic level of primary producers.
- Food webs
- H/A ratio
- Phytoplankton size distribution
- Size-selective grazing