Cell death in lake phytoplankton communities

Susana Agustí*, Eva Alou, Mark V. Hoyer, Thomas K. Frazer, Daniel E. Canfield

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


1. The fraction of living and dead phytoplankton cells in seven Florida lakes was assessed by using the cell digestion assay, a non-staining membrane permeability test. The cell digestion assay is an effective method to analyse cell viability in complex natural phytoplankton communities. 2. The lakes examined ranged widely in phytoplankton abundance and community composition. The variability in the percentage of living cells (% LC) was high among the taxonomic groups forming the different phytoplankton communities, ranging from 19.7% to 98% LC. 3. All cells within single cyanobacteria filaments were determined to be either dead or alive, suggesting physiological integration of the cells within colonies. 4. Within each lake, the dominant taxa generally exhibited the highest proportion of living cells. A high proportion of living cells was found to be a characteristic of the different taxa forming the communities of eutrophic lakes. The average value for the % LC for all groups comprising the phytoplankton communities in each of the lakes ranged from 29.9 ± 7.2 to 80.4 ± 4.0 (mean ± SE) and varied strongly and positively with chlorophyll a concentration. 5. These results suggest phytoplankton cell death to be an important process structuring phytoplankton communities in lakes, particularly in oligotrophic ones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1496-1506
Number of pages11
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell death
  • Community structure
  • Florida lakes
  • Membrane permeability
  • Phytoplankton

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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