Diversity and distribution of dinoflagellate cysts in surface sediments from fjords of western Vancouver Island (British Columbia, Canada)

Pieter R. Gurdebeke, Vera Pospelova, Kenneth Neil Mertens, Audrey Dallimore, Jasmin Chana, Stephen Louwye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


A total of 31 surface sediment samples from 16 coastal inlets in five sounds of western Vancouver Island were investigated for dinoflagellate cysts and other palynomorphs. Well-preserved and abundant dinoflagellate cysts were recovered, including a total of 32 cyst taxa belonging to four families. Total dinoflagellate cyst concentrations vary two orders of magnitude, with concentrations between 2267 and 918,584 cysts g−1. The highest values were observed in samples from Tofino Inlet. Southern sites are characterized by cysts of autotrophic dinoflagellates, mainly Operculodinium centrocarpum sensu Wall & Dale 1966. Other abundant cysts of autotrophic dinoflagellates are Spiniferites spp. and cysts of Pentapharsodinium dalei. In general, other inlets in Quatsino, Kyuquot-Nootka and Clayoquot Sounds have lower total concentrations but have more cysts of heterotrophic dinoflagellates, mainly Round brown cysts, Brigantedinium spp., and Spiny brown cysts. Neroutsos Inlet is characterized by high concentrations of Arcellacean testate amoebae. Within inlets, cyst concentrations and assemblages vary. Near the heads of the inlets, concentrations are generally lower and assemblages are dominated by cysts of autotrophic dinoflagellates, mostly O. centrocarpum sensu Wall & Dale 1966. Concentrations of cysts produced by heterotrophic dinoflagellates and their proportions in the assemblages generally increase from the head to the mouth of each inlet. Measured sedimentary biogenic silica abundances (%Opal) have consistently higher values in Clayoquot Sound and lower values in Quatsino Sound. Within individual inlets, biogenic silica generally increases in the head to mouth direction. The trend in heterotrophic cyst abundances is similar. Correlations between total organic carbon (TOC), total nitrogen (TN) and terrestrial palynomorph concentrations in the sediments indicate that the organic material at sites near inlet heads are mainly derived from terrestrial input. A significant negative correlation between biogenic silica and TOC/TN ratio was observed in the dataset, but not between the total heterotrophic cyst concentrations and relative abundances of biogenic silica. Statistical analyses (PCA, RDA) indicate that the assemblages of dinoflagellate cysts and other palynomorphs, their spatial distributions, and sedimentary geochemical measurements are related to the regional environmental setting (e.g., latitudinal trends in weather, primary productivity, and upwelling) and local characteristics of the inlets (e.g., site location relative to freshwater input, inlet morphology and bathymetry, as well as possible anthropogenic influences). Process length variation of O. centrocarpum sensu Wall & Dale 1966 was measured and it is comparable to previous measurements in similar environmental settings, allowing seawater densities to be inferred. Cysts of Alexandrium spp. were found in most of the samples, with the highest abundance in the inlet heads of Kyuquot and Quatsino Sounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-29
Number of pages18
JournalMarine Micropaleontology
StatePublished - Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) provided funding (Discovery and Ship-time Grants) for this work to Vera Pospelova (grant number RGPIN/6388-2015 ) and Audrey Dallimore. We thank the officers and the crew of the CCGS Vector. Maureen Soon and Alice Chang are thanked for completing the geochemical analysis at the University of British Columbia. The constructive remarks by two anonymous reviewers are acknowledged.


  • Biogenic silica
  • Dinoflagellate cyst diversity
  • Estuary
  • Process length of Protoceratium reticulatum cysts
  • Testate amoebae
  • Total organic carbon


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