Variation in light and temperature can influence the genetic diversity and structure of marine plankton communities. While open-ocean plankton communities receive much scientific attention, little is known about how environmental variation affects plankton communities on tropical coral reefs. Here, we characterize eukaryotic plankton communities on coral reefs across the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Panama´. Temperature loggers were deployed, and midday light levels were measured to quantify environmental differences across reefs at four inshore and four offshore sites (Inshore = Punta Donato, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) Point, Cristobal, Punta Laurel and Offshore = Drago Mar, Bastimentos North, Bastimentos South, and Cayo de Agua). Triplicate vertical plankton tows were collected midday, and high-throughput 18S ribosomal DNA metabarcoding was leveraged to investigate the relationship between eukaryotic plankton community structure and inshore/offshore reef environments. Plankton communities from STRI Point were additionally characterized in the morning (* 08:00), midday (* 12:00), and late-day (* 16:00) to quantify temporal variation within a single site. We found that inshore reefs experienced higher average seawater temperatures, while offshore sites offered higher light levels, presumably associated with reduced water turbidity on reefs further from shore. These significant environmental differences between inshore and offshore reefs corresponded with overall plankton community differences. We also found that temporal variation played a structuring role within these plankton communities, and conclude that time of community sampling is an important consideration for future studies. Follow-up studies focusing on more intensive sampling efforts across space and time, coupled with techniques that can detect more subtle genetic differences between and within communities will more fully capture plankton dynamics in this region and beyond.
Coral reefs, Plankton Reef zones, Phytoplankton, Zooplankton, Metabarcoding, 18S, Heterotrophy
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Rodas, Andrea M.; Wright, Rachel M.; Buie, Logan K.; Aichelman, Hannah E.; Castillo, Karl D.; and Davies, Sarah W., "Eukaryotic Plankton Communities Across Reef Environments in Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Panamá" (2020). Biological Sciences: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.