The role of climate in shaping zooplankton communities of shallow lakes

Gyllström M., L. -A. Hansson, E. Jeppesen, F. García-Criado, E. Gross, K. Irvine, T. Kairesalo, R. Kornijow, M. R. Miracle, M. Nykänen, T. Nõges, S. Romo, D. Stephen, E. Van Donk, B. Moss

Limnol. Oceanogr., 50(6), 2005, 2008-2021 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2005.50.6.2008

ABSTRACT: We analyzed data from 81 shallow European lakes, which were sampled with standardized methods, for combined effects of climatic, physical, and chemical features of food-web interactions, with a specific focus on zooplankton biomass and community structure. Multiple-regression analysis showed that total phosphorus (TP) generally was the most important predictor of zooplankton biomass and community structure. Climate was the next most important predictor and acted mainly through its effect on pelagic zooplankton taxa. Benthic and plant-associated taxa (typically almost half the total zooplankton biomass) were, however, affected mainly by macrophyte coverage. Neither climate nor TP affected the relation between small and large taxa, and we found only a weak trend with increasing TP of increasing mean crustacean body mass. Dividing the data set into three climate zones revealed a pronounced difference in response to lake productivity between cold lakes, with long periods of ice cover, and the two warmer lake types. These ‘‘ice’’ lakes differed from the others with respect to the effect of TP on chlorophyll a, the zooplankton : chlorophyll a ratio, the chlorophyll a :TP ratio, and the proportion of cyclopoids in the copepod community. Our data suggest that bottom-up forces, such as nutrient concentration, are the most important predictors of zooplankton biomass. In addition, climate contributes significantly—possibly by affecting top-down regulation by fish—and may interact with productivity in determining the zooplankton standing biomass and community composition. Hence, the present study suggests that food-web dynamics are closely linked to climatic features.

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