We studied the distribution of planktonic and epiphytic ciliates coupled with environmental factors and microalgae abundance at five stations in Ghar El Melh Lagoon (Tunisia). Planktonic ciliates were monitored for a year and epiphytic ciliates were sampled during summer 2011 in concordance with the proliferation of the seagrass Ruppia cirrhosa. Ciliate assemblage was largely dominated by Spirotrichea followed respectively by Tintinnida of and Strombidiida. No significant difference was found in the distribution of ciliate species among the stations. Redundancy analysis indicates that abiotic factors (temperature and nutriments) have a significant effect on the dynamics of certain ciliates. For epiphytic ciliates, 4 species were identified: Tintinnopsis campanula, Aspidisca sp., Strombidium acutum and Amphorides amphora. Based on PERMANOVA analyses, ciliates exhibit significant correlations among months and stations. According to ACP, epiphyte distribution follows roughly those of R. cirrhosa and pH. Significant correlations were found between harmful dinoflagellates and both planktonic and epiphytic ciliates.
Keywords: Dynamics; Epiphytic ciliates; Ghar El Melh Lagoon; Microalgae; Physico-chemical parameters; Planktonic ciliates.
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