Image_13_Annual Protist Community Dynamics in a Freshwater Ecosystem Undergoing Contrasted Climatic Conditions: The Saint-Charles River (Canada).TIF

Protists are key stone components of aquatic ecosystems, sustaining primary productivity and aquatic food webs. However, their diversity, ecology and structuring factors shaping their temporal distribution remain strongly misunderstood in freshwaters. Using high-throughput sequencing on water samples collected over 16 different months (including two summer and two winter periods), combined with geochemical measurements and climate monitoring, we comprehensively determined the pico- and nanoeukaryotic community composition and dynamics in a Canadian river undergoing prolonged ice-cover winters. Our analysis revealed a large protist diversity in this fluctuating ecosystem and clear seasonal patterns demonstrating a direct and/or indirect selective role of abiotic factors, such as water temperature or nitrogen concentrations, in structuring the eukaryotic microbial community. Nonetheless, our results also revealed that primary productivity, predatory as well as parasitism lifestyles, inferred from fine phylogenetic placements, remained potentially present over the annual cycle, despite the large seasonal fluctuations and the remodeling of the community composition under ice. In addition, potential interplays with the bacterial community composition were identified supporting a possible contribution of the bacterial community to the temporal dynamics of the protist community structure. Our results illustrate the complexity of the eukaryotic microbial community and provide a substantive and useful dataset to better understand the global freshwater ecosystem functioning.