Local ciliate communities associated with aquatic macrophytes
This study, based within the catchment area of the River Frome, an important chalk stream in the south of England, compared ciliated protozoan communities associated with three species of aquatic macrophyte common to lotic habitats: Ranunculus penicillatus subsp. pseudofluitans, Nasturtium officinale and Sparganium emersum. A total of 77 ciliate species were counted. No species-specific ciliate assemblage was found to be typical of any one plant species. Ciliate abundance between plant species was determined to be significantly different. The ciliate communities from each plant species were unique in that the number of species increased with ciliate abundance. The community associated with R. penicillatus subsp. pseudofluitans showed the highest consistency and species richness whereas S. emersum ciliate communities were unstable. Most notably, N. officinale was associated with low ciliate abundances and an apparent reduction in biofilm formation, discussed herein in relation to the plant’s production of the microbial toxin phenethyl isothiocyanate. We propose that the results reflect differences in the quantity and quality of biofilm present on the plants, which could be determined by the different plant morphologies, patterns of plant decay and herbivore defense systems, all of which suppress or promote the various conditions for biofilm growth.