Size matters: diatom establishment and extirpation timing in the Laurentian Great Lakes has been influenced by cell size

Andrew J Bramburger, Euan D Reavie, Gerald V Sgro, Lisa R Estepp, Victoria L Shaw Chraïbi, Robert W Pillsbury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The Laurentian Great Lakes are among the planet’s fastest-warming lakes. Recent paleolimnological studies have shown changes in the diatom community of the system, including shifts towards taxa characteristic of strongly stratified systems and ongoing cell-size diminution. Relationships between species’ cell size and establishment in—or extirpation from—the system have not been addressed. Examining patterns of establishment and extirpation provides insight into the effects of multiple stressors at the ecosystem scale. We evaluate the timing of the establishment or extirpation of diatom taxa from fossil records post-European settlement within the Great Lakes as a function of cell size. Relationships between establishment or extirpation date and cell size were not random, and were best expressed as cubic curves. Generally, large taxa became established early in the record, while establishments of smaller taxa continued apace until the late 20th century. Extirpations of taxa of all sizes accelerated in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and large-celled taxa were disproportionately extirpated over the last two decades. We discuss the implications of these relationships on the overall cell-size characteristics of the community, and consider the influences of propagule pressure, nutrient status, species invasions, and climate change upon diatom establishment and extirpation.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-264
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Plankton Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 15 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank K. Kennedy, A.R. Kireta, R. Sterner, and the crews of Research Vessels Lake Guardian and Blue Heron for their help in collecting core samples. Sediment dating was supported by D.R. Engstrom and personnel at the St. Croix Watershed Research Station. This document has not been subjected to the EPA’s required peer policy review and therefore does not necessarily reflect the view of the Agency, and no official endorsement should be inferred.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


  • cell size
  • community change
  • diatoms
  • Great Lakes
  • paleolimnolgy


Dive into the research topics of 'Size matters: diatom establishment and extirpation timing in the Laurentian Great Lakes has been influenced by cell size'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this