KNAW Repository

Colourful coexistence of red and green picocyanobacteria in lakes and seas

Stomp, M. and Huisman, J. and Vörös, L. and Pick, F.R. and Laamanen, M. and Haverkamp, T.H.A. and Stal, L.J. (2007) Colourful coexistence of red and green picocyanobacteria in lakes and seas. Ecology Letters, 10, 290-298. ISSN 1461-023X.

[img]PDF - Published Version
Restricted to KNAW only


Official URL:


Hutchinson's paradox of the plankton inspired many studies on the mechanisms of species coexistence. Recent laboratory experiments showed that partitioning of white light allows stable coexistence of red and green picocyanobacteria. Here, we investigate to what extent these laboratory findings can be extrapolated to natural waters. We predict from a parameterized competition model that the underwater light colour of lakes and seas provides ample opportunities for coexistence of red and green phytoplankton species. To test this prediction, we sampled picocyanobacteria of 70 aquatic ecosystems, ranging from clear blue oceans to turbid brown peat lakes. As predicted, red picocyanobacteria dominated in clear waters, whereas green picocyanobacteria dominated in turbid waters. We found widespread coexistence of red and green picocyanobacteria in waters of intermediate turbidity. These field data support the hypothesis that niche differentiation along the light spectrum promotes phytoplankton biodiversity, thus providing a colourful solution to the paradox of the plankton.

Item Type:Article
Institutes:Nederlands Instituut voor Ecologie (NIOO)
ID Code:4555
Deposited On:16 Sep 2009 02:00
Last Modified:24 Apr 2012 16:48

Repository Staff Only: item control page