The role of light for fish-zooplankton-phytoplankton interactions during winter in shallow lakes - a climate change perspective

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  • Mette Elisabeth Bramm
  • Majbritt Kjeldahl Lassen
  • Lone Liboriussen
  • Richardson, Katherine
  • Marc Ventura
  • Erik Jeppesen

1. Variations in the light regime can affect the availability and quality of food for zooplankton grazers as well as their exposure to fish predation. In northern lakes light is particularly low in winter and, with increasing warming, the northern limit of some present-day plankton communities may move further north and the plankton will thus receive less winter light.

2. We followed the changes in the biomass and community structure of zooplankton and phytoplankton in a clear and a turbid shallow lake during winter (November-March) in enclosures both with and without fish and with four different light treatments (100%, 55%, 7% and <1% of incoming light).

3. In both lakes total zooplankton biomass and chlorophyll-a were influenced by light availability and the presence of fish. Presence of fish irrespective of the light level led to low crustacean biomass, high rotifer biomass and changes in the life history of copepods. The strength of the fish effect on zooplankton biomass diminished with declining light and the effect of light was strongest in the presence of fish.

4. When fish were present, reduced light led to a shift from rotifers to calanoid copepods in the clear lake and from rotifers to cyclopoid copepods in the turbid lake. Light affected the phytoplankton biomass and, to a lesser extent, the phytoplankton community composition and size. However, the fish effect on phytoplankton was overall weak.

5. Our results from typical Danish shallow eutrophic lakes suggest that major changes in winter light conditions are needed in order to have a significant effect on the plankton community. The change in light occurring when such plankton communities move northwards in response to global warming will mostly be of modest importance for this lake type, at least for the rest of this century in an IPCC A2 scenario, while stronger effects may be observed in deep lakes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1093-1109
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

food availability • global warming • light manipulation • zooplanktivorous fish • zooplankton community structure

ID: 16975642