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Predicting Phytoplankton Community Dynamics

Speaker: Dr. Mary Lofton, Virginia Tech
Full Title: Predicting Phytoplankton Community Dynamics: Understanding Water Quality Responses to Global Change

A fundamental focus in ecology is understanding interactions between environmental heterogeneity and ecological community structure, which are currently undergoing unprecedented alterations due to global change. In particular, many freshwater phytoplankton communities are experiencing multiple global change stressors, altering phytoplankton community composition, biomass, and spatial distribution. Dr. Lofton uses multiple approaches to characterize the interactions between the spatial distribution and temporal dynamics of resources and phytoplankton community structure in lakes and reservoirs.

In addition, her recent work focuses on near-term forecasting of phytoplankton dynamics, and specifically quantifying uncertainty in predictions of phytoplankton temporal dynamics at the weekly scale. Overall, her work demonstrates that the vertical distribution of phytoplankton biomass across depth and the community structure of phytoplankton are linked, and that the interaction of phytoplankton community structure with environmental heterogeneity is more predictable over long-term (e.g., months to years) than short-term (e.g., days to weeks) scales. These results emphasize that consideration of phytoplankton community dynamics and the uncertainty associated with phytoplankton predictions are needed for freshwater management under global change.