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Diversity and vertical distribution of planktonic ciliates in a stratified mesotrophic lake: relationship to environmental conditions

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The density and biomass of planktonic ciliates significantly differed between sample sites in a deep, mesotrophic lake, with the lowest numbers in the hypolimnion and the highest in the epilimnion. The community composition varied greatly with depth. Oligotrichs dominated in the epilimnion, where prostomatids and peritrichs were also important components of the community. The density of oligotrichs and peritrichs decreased in the metalimnion, and they were absent from the hypolimnion. In the deep metalimnion the most abundant groups were prostomatids, haptorids and scuticociliates. In the hypolimnion, the ciliate community was dominated by scuticociliates and heterotrichs. In the epilimnion and metalimnion a significant positive correlation was observed between ciliate numbers, chlorophyll a and heterotrophic flagellate density. In all three zones the number of ciliates was most strongly correlated with water temperature, concentrations of total organic carbon (TOC), total phosphorus (Ptot) and bacterial density, whilst in the hypolimnion there was a significant correlation between ciliate numbers and the dissolved oxygen concentration.
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