Abstract

Functional morphology corresponds to adaptive responses to changes in the environment. In phytoplankton, traits such as the development of mucilage, oil vesicles, filaments and variation in the surface/volume ratio, allow algae to deal with sedimentation, optimizing light and nutrient uptake. The aim of this research was to evaluate the relationship between traits and variation in physical and chemical conditions in Tota Lake (Boyacá, Colombia). For this, ten samplings were undertaken in a monthly basis between October 2013 and July 2014. We measured water pH, conductivity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, oxygen saturation, alkalinity and total hardness; we also quantified Total Kjeldahl nitrogen and Total phosphorus. Algae were collected at different depths according to Secchi transparency. Taxonomic composition and abundance were estimated by the chamber sedimentation method. Morphological traits were measured for each taxa according to geometric models, allowing traits classification into morphologically based functional groups (MBFG) and having algae biomass expressed as biovolume. The variables were evaluated through Principal Components Analysis, which included time-space effect and it was interpreted according to variation in water level. Through Canonical Correspondence Analysis we established the relationship between phytoplankton biovolume accumulated in form categories and environmental variables. The ordination showed that limnological conditions are influenced by seasonal changes, which are mainly represented by oxygen saturation percentage, Secchi transparency, TKN, hardness and alkalinity. Four MBFG were found: IV, V, VI and VII, being MBFG IV and VII the most representatives. ACC was significant (Monte-Carlo Test, p<0.05). In conclusion, the morphological and functional response of phytoplankton in Tota Lake is driven by short-term variability in transparency, phosphorus, nitrogen, hardness, and electrical conductivity, which are all affected by seasonal changes in the lake level.

Keywords: biovolume, functional group, functional morphology, phytoplankton, Tota Lake