Phytoplankton are known as important harbingers of climate change in aquatic ecosystems. Here, the influence of the oceanographic settings on the phytoplankton community structure in the western South China Sea (SCS) was investigated during two seasons, i.e., the winter (December 2006) and summer (August–September, 2007). The phytoplankton community was mainly composed of diatoms (192 taxa), dinoflagellates (109 taxa), and cyanobacteria (4 taxa). The chain-forming diatoms and cyanobacteria Trichodesmium
were the dominants throughout the study period. The phytoplankton community structure displayed distinct variation between two seasons, shifting from a diatom-dominated regime in winter to a cyanobacteria-dominated system in summer. The increased abundance of overall phytoplankton and cyanobacteria in the water column during the summer signifies the impact of nutrient advection due to upwelling and enriched eddy activity. That the symbiotic cyanobacteria–diatom (Rhizosolenia–Richelia
) association was abundant during the winter signifies the influence of cool temperature. On the contrary, Trichodesmium
dominance during the summer implies its tolerance to increased temperature. Overall, the two seasonal variations within the local phytoplankton community in the western SCS could simulate their community shift over the forthcoming climatic conditions.
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