Everything is not everywhere: can marine compartments shape phytoplankton assemblages?
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The idea that 'everything is everywhere, but the environment selects' has been seminal in microbial biogeography, and marine phytoplankton is one of the prototypical groups used to illustrate this. The typical argument has been that phytoplankton is ubiquitous, but that distinct assemblages form under environmental selection. It is well established that phytoplankton assemblages vary considerably between coastal ecosystems. However, the relative roles of compartmentalization of regional seas and site-specific environmental conditions in shaping assemblage structures have not been specifically examined. We collected data from coastal embayments that fall within two different water compartments within the same regional sea and are characterized by highly localized environmental pressures. We used principal coordinates of neighbour matrices (PCNM) and asymmetric eigenvector maps (AEM) models to partition the effects that spatial structures, environmental conditions and their overlap had on the variation in assemblage composition. Our models explained a high percentage of variation in assemblage composition (59-65%) and showed that spatial structure consistent with marine compartmentalization played a more important role than local environmental conditions. At least during the study period, surface currents connecting sites within the two compartments failed to generate sufficient dispersal to offset the impact of differences due to compartmentalization. In other words, our findings suggest that, even for a prototypical cosmopolitan group, everything is not everywhere.