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The More the Merrier?: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function in Suspension Feeder Communities

Chris Freeman, Smithsonian Marine Station

6 October 2017

Suspension feeders are a dominant component of estuarine ecosystems. By efficiently removing both living cells and detritus from the water column, these communities serve a critical role in the regulation of primary production and the benthic-pelagic coupling of nutrients and organic matter. In this presentation, Dr. Freeman will introduce the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), a biodiverse, subtropical estuary of central Florida and will describe recent research on the role that suspension feeders play in this system. This research uses a novel combination of flow cytometry and cultured algal cells that have been isotopically (13C or 15N) labeled to quantify the efficiency of particle removal and assimilation by both natural assemblages and individual species of suspension feeders. Dr. Freeman will present evidence of a strong relationship between community diversity and the efficiency of particle removal and highlight individual species and functional groups contributing to these trends. These results will be discussed along with spatial and temporal trends of suspension feeder diversity within the IRL.