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1.  Interactive effects of chemical and biological controls on food-web composition in saline prairie lakes 
Aquatic Biosystems  2012;8:29.
Salinity is restricting habitatability for many biota in prairie lakes due to limited physiological abilities to cope with increasing osmotic stress. Yet, it remains unclear how salinity effects vary among major taxonomic groups and what role other environmental parameters play in shaping food-web composition. To answer these questions, we sampled fish, zooplankton and littoral macroinvertebrates in 20 prairie lakes (Saskatchewan, Canada) characterized by large gradients in water chemistry and lake morphometry. We showed that salinity thresholds differed among major taxonomic groups, as most fishes were absent above salinities of 2 g L-1, while littoral macroinvertebrates were ubiquitous. Zooplankton occurred over the whole salinity range, but changed taxonomic composition as salinity increased. Subsequently, the complexity of fish community (diversity) was associated with large changes in invertebrate communities. The directional changes in invertebrate communities to smaller taxa indicated that complex fish assemblages resulted in higher predation pressure. Most likely, as the complexity of fish community decreased, controls of invertebrate assemblages shifted from predation to competition and ultimately to productivity in hypersaline lakes. Surprisingly, invertebrate predators did not thrive in the absence of fishes in these systems. Furthermore, the here identified salinity threshold for fishes was too low to be a result of osmotic stress. Hence, winterkill was likely an important factor eliminating fishes in low salinity lakes that had high productivity and shallow water depth. Ultimately, while salinity was crucial, intricate combinations of chemical and biological mechanisms also played a major role in controlling the assemblages of major taxonomic groups in prairie lakes.
PMCID: PMC3547742  PMID: 23186395
Lake food-web; Diversity; Fish; Invertebrates; Salinity; Winter kill
2.  Effects of Temperature, Salinity and Fish in Structuring the Macroinvertebrate Community in Shallow Lakes: Implications for Effects of Climate Change 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e30877.
Climate warming may lead to changes in the trophic structure and diversity of shallow lakes as a combined effect of increased temperature and salinity and likely increased strength of trophic interactions. We investigated the potential effects of temperature, salinity and fish on the plant-associated macroinvertebrate community by introducing artificial plants in eight comparable shallow brackish lakes located in two climatic regions of contrasting temperature: cold-temperate and Mediterranean. In both regions, lakes covered a salinity gradient from freshwater to oligohaline waters. We undertook day and night-time sampling of macroinvertebrates associated with the artificial plants and fish and free-swimming macroinvertebrate predators within artificial plants and in pelagic areas. Our results showed marked differences in the trophic structure between cold and warm shallow lakes. Plant-associated macroinvertebrates and free-swimming macroinvertebrate predators were more abundant and the communities richer in species in the cold compared to the warm climate, most probably as a result of differences in fish predation pressure. Submerged plants in warm brackish lakes did not seem to counteract the effect of fish predation on macroinvertebrates to the same extent as in temperate freshwater lakes, since small fish were abundant and tended to aggregate within the macrophytes. The richness and abundance of most plant-associated macroinvertebrate taxa decreased with salinity. Despite the lower densities of plant-associated macroinvertebrates in the Mediterranean lakes, periphyton biomass was lower than in cold temperate systems, a fact that was mainly attributed to grazing and disturbance by fish. Our results suggest that, if the current process of warming entails higher chances of shallow lakes becoming warmer and more saline, climatic change may result in a decrease in macroinvertebrate species richness and abundance in shallow lakes.
PMCID: PMC3290630  PMID: 22393354
3.  Impact of Forest Harvesting on Trophic Structure of Eastern Canadian Boreal Shield Lakes: Insights from Stable Isotope Analyses 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e96143.
Perturbations on ecosystems can have profound immediate effects and can, accordingly, greatly alter the natural community. Land-use such as forestry activities in the Canadian Boreal region have increased in the last decades, raising concerns about their potential impact on aquatic ecosystems. The objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of forest harvesting on trophic structure in eastern Canadian Boreal Shield lakes. We measured carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes values for aquatic primary producers, terrestrial detritus, benthic macroinvertebrates, zooplankton and brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) over a three-year period in eight eastern Boreal Shield lakes. Four lakes were studied before, one and two years after forest harvesting (perturbed lakes) and compared with four undisturbed reference lakes (unperturbed lakes) sampled at the same time. Stable isotope mixing models showed leaf-litter to be the main food source for benthic primary consumers in both perturbed and unperturbed lakes, suggesting no logging impact on allochthonous subsidies to the littoral food web. Brook trout derived their food mainly from benthic predatory macroinvertebrates in unperturbed lakes. However, in perturbed lakes one year after harvesting, zooplankton appeared to be the main contributor to brook trout diet. This change in brook trout diet was mitigated two years after harvesting. Size-related diet shift were also observed for brook trout, indicating a diet shift related to size. Our study suggests that carbon from terrestrial habitat may be a significant contribution to the food web of oligotrophic Canadian Boreal Shield lakes. Forest harvesting did not have an impact on the diet of benthic primary consumers. On the other hand, brook trout diet composition was affected by logging with greater zooplankton contribution in perturbed lakes, possibly induced by darker-colored environment in these lakes one year after logging.
PMCID: PMC3999157  PMID: 24763366
4.  Assessing element-specific patterns of bioaccumulation across New England lakes 
The Science of the Total Environment  2012;421-422:230-237.
Little is known about differences among trace elements in patterns of bioaccumulation in freshwater food webs. Our goal was to identify patterns in bioaccumulation of different elements that are large and consistent enough to discern despite variation across lakes. We measured methylmercury (MeHg) and trace element (As, Cd, Hg, Pb, and Zn) concentrations in food web components of seven New England lakes on 3–5 dates per lake, and contrasted patterns of bioaccumulation across lakes, metals and seasons. In each lake, trace element concentrations were compared across trophic levels, including three size fractions of zooplankton, planktivorous fish, and piscivorous fish. The trophic position of each food web component was estimated from N isotope analysis. Trace element concentrations varied widely among taxa, lakes and sampling dates. Yet, we identified four consistent patterns of bioaccumulation that were consistent across lakes: (1) MeHg concentration increased (i.e., was biomagnified) and Pb concentration decreased (i.e., was biodiminished) with increased trophic position. (2) Zinc concentration (as with MeHg) was higher in fish than in zooplankton, but overall variation in Zn concentration (unlike MeHg) was low. (3) Arsenic and Cd concentrations (as with Pb) were lower in fish than in zooplankton, but (unlike Pb) were not significantly correlated with trophic position within zooplankton or fish groups. (4) Average summer concentrations of As, Pb, Hg, and MeHg in zooplankton significantly predicted their concentrations in either planktivorous or piscivorous fish. Our secondary goal was to review sampling approaches in forty-five published studies to determine the extent to which current sampling programs facilitate cross-lake and cross-study comparisons of bioaccumulation. We found that studies include different components of the food web and sample too infrequently to enable strong cross-lake and cross-study comparisons. We discuss sampling strategies that would improve our capacity to identify consistent patterns of bioaccumulation and drivers of elevated trace element concentrations under naturally high levels of variability.
PMCID: PMC3306538  PMID: 22356871
aquatic food web; biomagnification; fish; mercury; trace metal; trophic transfer; zooplankton
5.  The trophic status of Suwałki Landscape Park lakes based on selected parameters (NE Poland) 
This study describes changes in the trophic status of 12 lakes within Suwałki Landscape Park (SLP). All of the trophic classifications of the lakes were based on the trophic continuum division. Trophic status was determined by means of multiparameter indices using several diverse criteria. In this study, the assessment of the trophic status of lakes included water quality; abundance and biomass of bacterioplankton, phytoplankton, and zooplankton; and primary production of phytoplankton. The Carlson trophic state index (TSI) describes the level of water fertility and indicated the dominance of moderately eutrophic waters. Lakes Perty, Jeglówek, and Hańcza have a trophic status that indicates mesotrophy (TSI <50). The trophic status of the studied lakes was determined based on the bacterial abundance and clearly showed a lack of oligotrophic lakes in SLP. Based on the number of bacteria, only Lake Szurpiły can be classified as β-mesotrophic, whereas Lake Linówek can be characterized as hypertrophic with some features typical for humic waters. The greatest value of gross primary production was observed in Lake Linówek (126.4 mg C/m3/h). The phytoplankton trophy index varied from 1.59 to 2.28, and its highest value, which indicated eutrophy, was determined for Lake Udziejek. In the case of Lakes Hańcza, Szurpiły, Perty, Jeglówek, and Kojle, the index ranged from 1.25 to 1.74, which indicated mesotrophy. The majority of the lakes were classified as mesoeutrophic (1.75–2.24). The highest trophic status was assessed for lakes with a marked dominance of cyanobacteria (Lake Przechodnie, Lake Krajwelek, Lake Udziejek, and Lake Pogorzałek), which is commonly recognized as an indicator of high trophic status. Considering all of the indices of trophic status, the analysis of rotifer community structure indicates that the studied group of lakes is mesoeutrophic or eutrophic. The values of crustacean zooplankton indices indicated that the trophic status of the studied lakes was close to that determined using a TSI. The parameters of zooplankton abundance and species structure allowed for the observance of changes in the tropic levels of lakes, which are difficult to detect by a chemical assay alone.
PMCID: PMC4064123  PMID: 24788838
Trophic state index; Nutrients; Bacterioplankton; Phytoplankton; Zooplankton; Primary production
6.  Saline systems of the Great Plains of western Canada: an overview of the limnogeology and paleolimnology 
Saline Systems  2005;1:10.
In much of the northern Great Plains, saline and hypersaline lacustrine brines are the only surface waters present. As a group, the lakes of this region are unique: there is no other area in the world that can match the concentration and diversity of saline lake environments exhibited in the prairie region of Canada and northern United States. The immense number of individual salt lakes and saline wetlands in this region of North America is staggering. Estimates vary from about one million to greater than 10 million, with densities in some areas being as high as 120 lakes/km2.
Despite over a century of scientific investigation of these salt lakes, we have only in the last twenty years advanced far enough to appreciate the wide spectrum of lake types, water chemistries, and limnological processes that are operating in the modern settings. Hydrochemical data are available for about 800 of the lake brines in the region. Composition, textural, and geochemical information on the modern bottom sediments has been collected for just over 150 of these lakes. Characterization of the biological and ecological features of these lakes is based on even fewer investigations, and the stratigraphic records of only twenty basins have been examined.
The lake waters show a considerable range in ionic composition and concentration. Early investigators, concentrating on the most saline brines, emphasized a strong predominance of Na+ and SO4-2 in the lakes. It is now realized, however, that not only is there a complete spectrum of salinities from less than 1 ppt TDS to nearly 400 ppt, but also virtually every water chemistry type is represented in lakes of the region. With such a vast array of compositions, it is difficult to generalize. Nonetheless, the paucity of Cl-rich lakes makes the northern Great Plains basins somewhat unusual compared with salt lakes in many other areas of the world (e.g., Australia, western United States). Compilations of the lake water chemistries show distinct spatial trends and regional variations controlled by groundwater input, climate, and geomorphology. Short-term temporal variations in the brine composition, which can have significant effects on the composition of the modern sediments, have also been well documented in several individual basins.
From a sedimentological and mineralogical perspective, the wide range of water chemistries exhibited by the lakes leads to an unusually large diversity of modern sediment composition. Over 40 species of endogenic precipitates and authigenic minerals have been identified in the lacustrine sediments. The most common non-detrital components of the modern sediments include: calcium and calcium-magnesium carbonates (magnesian calcite, aragonite, dolomite), and sodium, magnesium, and sodium-magnesium sulfates (mirabilite, thenardite, bloedite, epsomite). Many of the basins whose brines have very high Mg/Ca ratios also have hydromagnesite, magnesite, and nesquehonite. Unlike salt lakes in many other areas of the world, halite, gypsum, and calcite are relatively rare endogenic precipitates in the Great Plains lakes. The detrital fraction of the lacustrine sediments is normally dominated by clay minerals, carbonate minerals, quartz, and feldspars.
Sediment accumulation in these salt lakes is controlled and modified by a wide variety of physical, chemical, and biological processes. Although the details of these modern sedimentary processes can be exceedingly complex and difficult to discuss in isolation, in broad terms, the processes operating in the salt lakes of the Great Plains are ultimately controlled by three basic factors or conditions of the basin: (a) basin morphology; (b) basin hydrology; and (c) water salinity and composition. Combinations of these parameters interact to control nearly all aspects of modern sedimentation in these salt lakes and give rise to four 'end member' types of modern saline lacustrine settings in the Great Plains: (a) clastics-dominated playas; (b) salt-dominated playas; (c) deep water, non-stratified lakes; and (d) deep water, "permanently" stratified lakes.
PMCID: PMC1315329  PMID: 16297237
7.  Is the Relationship between Body Size and Trophic Niche Position Time-Invariant in a Predatory Fish? First Stable Isotope Evidence 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9120.
Characterizing relationships between individual body size and trophic niche position is essential for understanding how population and food-web dynamics are mediated by size-dependent trophic interactions. However, whether (and how) intraspecific size-trophic relationships (i.e., trophic ontogeny pattern at the population level) vary with time remains poorly understood. Using archival specimens of a freshwater predatory fish Gymnogobius isaza (Tanaka 1916) from Lake Biwa, Japan, we assembled a long-term (>40 years) time-series of the size-dependence of trophic niche position by examining nitrogen stable isotope ratios (δ15N) of the fish specimens. The size-dependence of trophic niche position was defined as the slope of the relationship between δ15N and log body size. Our analyses showed that the slope was significantly positive in about 60% of years and null in other years, changing through time. This is the first quantitative (i.e., stable isotope) evidence of long-term variability in the size-trophic relationship in a predatory fish. This finding had implications for the fish trophic dynamics, despite that about 60% of the yearly values were not statistically different from the long-term average. We proposed hypotheses for the underlying mechanism of the time-varying size-trophic relationship.
PMCID: PMC2817743  PMID: 20161751
8.  Spatial patterns of mercury in biota of Adirondack, New York lakes 
Ecotoxicology (London, England)  2011;20(7):1543-1554.
We studied the spatial distribution patterns of mercury (Hg) in lake water, littoral sediments, zooplankton, crayfish, fish, and common loons in 44 lakes of the Adirondacks of New York State, USA, a region that has been characterized as a “biological Hg hotspot”. Our study confirmed this pattern, finding that a substantial fraction of the lakes studied had fish and loon samples exceeding established criteria for human and wildlife health. Factors accounting for the spatial variability of Hg in lake water and biota were lake chemistry (pH, acid neutralizing capacity (ANC), percent carbon in sediments), biology (taxa presence, trophic status) and landscape characteristics (land cover class, lake elevation). Hg concentrations in zooplankton, fish and common loons were negatively associated with the lake water acid-base status (pH, ANC). Bioaccumulation factors (BAF) for methyl Hg (MeHg) increased from crayfish (mean log10 BAF = 5.7), to zooplankton (5.9), to prey fish (6.2), to larger fish (6.3), to common loons (7.2). MeHg BAF values in zooplankton, crayfish, and fish (yellow perch equivalent) all increased with increasing lake elevation. Our findings support the hypothesis that bioaccumulation of MeHg at the base of the food chain is an important controller of Hg concentrations in taxa at higher trophic levels. The characteristics of Adirondack lake-watersheds (sensitivity to acidic deposition; significant forest and wetland land cover; and low nutrient inputs) contribute to elevated Hg concentrations in aquatic biota.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10646-011-0717-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3175042  PMID: 21691858
Spatial distribution; Methylmercury; Bioaccumulation; Aquatic biota; pH; Acid neutralizing capacity
9.  The most acidified Austrian lake in comparison to a neutralized mining lake 
Limnologica (Online)  2011;41(4):303-315.
This study investigated two mining lakes located in the north of Lower Austria. These lakes arose 45 years ago when open cast lignite mining ceased. The lakes are separated by a 7-m wide dam. Due to the oxidation of pyrite, both lakes have been acidified and exhibit iron, sulphate, and heavy metal concentrations several orders of magnitude higher than in circumneutral lakes. The water column of both lakes is divided into two layers by a pronounced chemocline. The smaller mining lake (AML), with pH close to of 2.6, is the most acidic lake in Austria, whereas flooding with stream water and by drainage from the surrounding fields neutralized the adjacent larger pit lake. The goal of our study was to investigate the effect of flooding on its physical, chemical and biological properties, in comparison to the pristine AML. Even relative to other extremely acidic lakes, the flora and fauna in the AML was reduced and composed of only two flagellate, one ciliate, and one rotifer species. The simplified pelagic food web in the mixolimnion consisted of heterotrophic bacteria, the mixotrophic flagellates Chlamydomonas acidophila and Ochromonas sp., the ciliate Oxytricha sp., and the rotifer Cephalodella sp. The latter two are as yet undescribed new species. The heliozoan Actinophrys sp. that may act as top predator occurred only in low abundance. The euglenid Lepocinclis buetschlii formed a stable deep chlorophyll maximum (DCM) at 7 m depth. Highest cell numbers of L. buetschlii in the DCM exceeded 108 L−1. The neutralized mining lake harboured higher plankton diversity similar to that of natural circumneutral lakes. A peak of at least 16 different phytoplankton taxa was observed during summer. The zooplankton consisted of several copepod species, daphnids and other cladocerans, and at least six different rotifer species. Several fish species occurred in the neutralized lake. Although the effect of non-permanent flooding was largely sustainable, interannual fluctuations of the pH affected the plankton community and reduced its species diversity.
PMCID: PMC3202634  PMID: 22140284
Acid mining lake; Neutralization; Meromixis; Deep chlorophyll maximum; Phytoplankton; Zooplankton; Biodiversity; Langau
10.  An assessment, using stable isotopes, of the importance of allochthonous organic carbon sources to the pelagic food web in Loch Ness 
The natural abundance of stable isotopes (δ13C and δ1315N) was determined for components of the pelagic food web in Loch Ness, a deep oligotrophic lake in northern Scotland, and compared with values from the inflow rivers and the catchment vegetation. Phytoplankton δ13C was low compared to values reported from other lakes, possibly reflecting a high use of 13C-depleted carbon dioxide from respired organic matter before further isotopic fractionation during photosynthesis. Phytoplankton δ13C was appreciably lower than that of dissolved and particulate organic matter (DOM and POM) in the loch. The DOM and POM were evidently overwhelmingly of allochthonous origin and ultimately derived from terrestrial plant detritus. The distinctive δ13C values for phytoplankton and detritus in the loch allowed the use of food sources by grazing crustacean zooplankton to be assessed, and the contributions of phytoplankton carbon and detrital carbon to zooplankton total body carbon appeared to be about equal. Comparison of δ13C and δ15N values for zooplankton and fish allowed assessment of trophic structure in the loch. The very high dependence of the pelagic food web in Loch Ness on allochthonous organic matter inputs from the catchment may be exceptional in a large lake, but has important implications for our understanding of lake ecosystem processes as well as for lake management.
PMCID: PMC1688859
11.  Patterns in Benthic Biodiversity Link Lake Trophic Status to Structure and Potential Function of Three Large, Deep Lakes 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(1):e0117024.
Relative to their scarcity, large, deep lakes support a large proportion of the world’s freshwater species. This biodiversity is threatened by human development and is in need of conservation. Direct comparison of biodiversity is the basis of biological monitoring for conservation but is difficult to conduct between large, insular ecosystems. The objective of our study was to conduct such a comparison of benthic biodiversity between three of the world’s largest lakes: Lake Tahoe, USA; Lake Hövsgöl, Mongolia; and Crater Lake, USA. We examined biodiversity of common benthic organism, the non-biting midges (Chironomidae) and determined lake trophic status using chironomid-based lake typology, tested whether community structure was similar between the three lakes despite geographic distance; and tested whether chironomid diversity would show significant variation within and between lakes. Typology analysis indicated that Lake Hövsgöl was ultra-oligotrophic, Crater Lake was oligotrophic, and Lake Tahoe was borderline oligotrophic/mesotrophic. These results were similar to traditional pelagic measures of lake trophic status for Lake Hövsgöl and Crater Lake but differed for Lake Tahoe, which has been designated as ultra-oligotrophic by traditional pelagic measures such as transparency found in the literature. Analysis of similarity showed that Lake Tahoe and Lake Hövsgöl chironomid communities were more similar to each other than either was to Crater Lake communities. Diversity varied between the three lakes and spatially within each lake. This research shows that chironomid communities from these large lakes were sensitive to trophic conditions. Chironomid communities were similar between the deep environments of Lake Hövsgöl and Lake Tahoe, indicating that chironomid communities from these lakes may be useful in comparing trophic state changes in large lakes. Spatial variation in Lake Tahoe’s diversity is indicative of differential response of chironomid communities to nutrient enrichment which may be an indication of changes in trophic state within and across habitats.
PMCID: PMC4296932  PMID: 25594516
12.  Effects of predation pressure and resource use on morphological divergence in omnivorous prey fish 
Body shape is one of the most variable traits of organisms and responds to a broad array of local selective forces. In freshwater fish, divergent body shapes within single species have been repeatedly observed along the littoral-pelagic axes of lakes, where the structural complexity of near shore habitats provides a more diverse set of resources compared to the open-water zones. It remains poorly understood whether similar resource-driven polymorphism occurs among lakes that vary in structural complexity and predation pressure, and whether this variation is heritable. Here, we analyzed body shape in four populations of omnivorous roach (Rutilus rutilus) inhabiting shallow lakes. We tested the relationship between body shape, gradients of resources, predation pressure, and, in a subset of two lakes, diet composition. We used genome scans of 331 polymorphic AFLP markers to test whether there was a heritable component to the observed morphological diversification.
Body shape differed among lakes and was significantly correlated to differences in predation pressure. Roach from the lake with highest predation pressure were most divergent from the average body shape of all populations, characterized by a more streamlined body and caudally inserted dorsal fins; features that facilitate predator escape. Surprisingly, diet composition was not associated with morphology. AFLP analysis revealed weak genetic differentiation among lakes and no isolation by distance (IBD). Outlier analysis detected three loci under positive selection with differing frequencies in the four populations. General linear models did not support an association of lake-specific genotypes with morphological variation.
Body shape was divergent among lakes, suggesting that processes previously reported from within single lakes may also be operating at the scale of whole lakes. We found no evidence for body shape being heritable, although sample size was small in these natural populations. Rather than habitat structure and diet, we conclude that predation had a stronger effect on the prevalence of local morphotypes. A variable morphotype facilitating the efficient uptake of a variety of spatially and temporarily scattered resources seems to be favored in these small aquatic systems.
PMCID: PMC3702407  PMID: 23802571
Geometric morphometrics; AFLP; Stable isotope analysis; Gut content analysis; Shallow lakes; Predation; Outlier loci; Adaptive divergence; Rutilus rutilus; Predator induced morphological defense
13.  Microbiology of Lonar Lake and other soda lakes 
The ISME Journal  2012;7(3):468-476.
Soda lakes are saline and alkaline ecosystems that are believed to have existed throughout the geological record of Earth. They are widely distributed across the globe, but are highly abundant in terrestrial biomes such as deserts and steppes and in geologically interesting regions such as the East African Rift valley. The unusual geochemistry of these lakes supports the growth of an impressive array of microorganisms that are of ecological and economic importance. Haloalkaliphilic Bacteria and Archaea belonging to all major trophic groups have been described from many soda lakes, including lakes with exceptionally high levels of heavy metals. Lonar Lake is a soda lake that is centered at an unusual meteorite impact structure in the Deccan basalts in India and its key physicochemical and microbiological characteristics are highlighted in this article. The occurrence of diverse functional groups of microbes, such as methanogens, methanotrophs, phototrophs, denitrifiers, sulfur oxidizers, sulfate reducers and syntrophs in soda lakes, suggests that these habitats harbor complex microbial food webs that (a) interconnect various biological cycles via redox coupling and (b) impact on the production and consumption of greenhouse gases. Soda lake microorganisms harbor several biotechnologically relevant enzymes and biomolecules (for example, cellulases, amylases, ectoine) and there is the need to augment bioprospecting efforts in soda lake environments with new integrated approaches. Importantly, some saline and alkaline lake ecosystems around the world need to be protected from anthropogenic pressures that threaten their long-term existence.
PMCID: PMC3578565  PMID: 23178675
Lonar Lake; soda lakes; alkaliphiles; stable-isotope probing; microbial prospecting
14.  Seasonal Trophic Niche Shift and Cascading Effect of a Generalist Predator Fish 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e49691.
Few studies have examined how foraging niche shift of a predator over time cascade down to local prey communities. Here we examine patterns of temporal foraging niche shifts of a generalist predator (yellow catfish, Pelteobagrus fulvidraco) and the abundance of prey communities in a subtropical lake. We predicted that the nature of these interactions would have implications for patterns in diet shifts and growth of the predator. Our results show significant decreases in planktivory and benthivory from late spring to summer and autumn, whereas piscivory increased significantly from mid-summer until late autumn and also increased steadily with predator body length. The temporal dynamics in predator/prey ratios indicate that the predation pressure on zooplankton and zoobenthos decreased when the predation pressure on the prey fish and shrimps was high. Yellow catfish adjusted their foraging strategies to temporal changes in food availability, which is in agreement with optimal foraging theory. Meanwhile the decrease in planktivory and benthivory of yellow catfish enabled primary consumers, such as zooplankton and benthic invertebrates, to develop under low grazing pressure via trophic cascading effects in the local food web. Thus, yellow catfish shifts its foraging niche to intermediate consumers in the food web to benefit the energetic demand on growth and reproduction during summer, which in turn indirectly facilitate the primary consumers. In complex food webs, trophic interactions are usually expected to reduce the strength and penetrance of trophic cascades. However, our study demonstrates strong associations between foraging niche of piscivorous fish and abundance of prey. This relationship appeared to be an important factor in producing top-down effects on both benthic and planktonic food webs.
PMCID: PMC3522673  PMID: 23251347
15.  Methane Carbon Supports Aquatic Food Webs to the Fish Level 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42723.
Large amounts of the greenhouse gas methane (CH4) are produced by anaerobic mineralization of organic matter in lakes. In spite of extensive freshwater CH4 emissions, most of the CH4 is typically oxidized by methane oxidizing bacteria (MOB) before it can reach the lake surface and be emitted to the atmosphere. In turn, it has been shown that the CH4-derived biomass of MOB can provide the energy and carbon for zooplankton and macroinvertebrates. In this study, we demonstrate the presence of specific fatty acids synthesized by MOB in fish tissues having low carbon stable isotope ratios. Fish species, zooplankton, macroinvertebrates and the water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes were collected from a shallow lake in Brazil and analyzed for fatty acids (FA) and carbon stable isotope ratios (δ13C). The fatty acids 16∶1ω8c, 16∶1ω8t, 16∶1ω6c, 16∶1ω5t, 18∶1ω8c and 18∶1ω8t were used as signature for MOB. The δ13C ratios varied from −27.7‰ to −42.0‰ and the contribution of MOB FA ranged from 0.05% to 0.84% of total FA. Organisms with higher total content of MOB FAs presented lower δ13C values (i.e. they were more depleted in 13C), while organisms with lower content of MOB signature FAs showed higher δ13C values. An UPGMA cluster analysis was carried out to distinguish grouping of organisms in relation to their MOB FA contents. This combination of stable isotope and fatty acid tracers provides new evidence that assimilation of methane-derived carbon can be an important carbon source for the whole aquatic food web, up to the fish level.
PMCID: PMC3413669  PMID: 22880091
16.  Effect of grazers and viruses on bacterial community structure and production in two contrasting trophic lakes 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:88.
Over the last 30 years, extensive studies have revealed the crucial roles played by microbes in aquatic ecosystems. It has been shown that bacteria, viruses and protozoan grazers are dominant in terms of abundance and biomass. The frequent interactions between these microbiological compartments are responsible for strong trophic links from dissolved organic matter to higher trophic levels, via heterotrophic bacteria, which form the basis for the important biogeochemical roles of microbial food webs in aquatic ecosystems. To gain a better understanding of the interactions between bacteria, viruses and flagellates in lacustrine ecosystems, we investigated the effect of protistan bacterivory on bacterial abundance, production and structure [determined by 16S rRNA PCR-DGGE], and viral abundance and activity of two lakes of contrasting trophic status. Four experiments were conducted in the oligotrophic Lake Annecy and the mesotrophic Lake Bourget over two seasons (early spring vs. summer) using a fractionation approach. In situ dark vs. light incubations were performed to consider the effects of the different treatments in the presence and absence of phototrophic activity.
The presence of grazers (i.e. < 5-μm small eukaryotes) affected viral production positively in all experiments, and the stimulation of viral production (compared to the treatment with no eukaryotic predators) was more variable between lakes than between seasons, with the highest value having been recorded in the mesotrophic lake (+30%). Viral lysis and grazing activities acted additively to sustain high bacterial production in all experiments. Nevertheless, the stimulation of bacterial production was more variable between seasons than between lakes, with the highest values obtained in summer (+33.5% and +37.5% in Lakes Bourget and Annecy, respectively). The presence of both predators (nanoflagellates and viruses) did not seem to have a clear influence upon bacterial community structure according to the four experiments.
Our results highlight the importance of a synergistic effect, i.e. the positive influence of grazers on viral activities in sustaining (directly and indirectly) bacterial production and affecting composition, in both oligotrophic and mesotrophic lakes.
PMCID: PMC3114703  PMID: 21527043
Lakes; microcosm; spring-summer variations; bacterial production; viral production; bacterial community structure; grazers
17.  Isotopic evidence for the spatial heterogeneity of the planktonic food webs in the transition zone between river and lake ecosystems 
PeerJ  2013;1:e222.
Resources and organisms in food webs are distributed patchily. The spatial structure of food webs is important and critical to understanding their overall structure. However, there is little available information about the small-scale spatial structure of food webs. We investigated the spatial structure of food webs in a lake ecosystem at the littoral transition zone between an inflowing river and a lake. We measured the carbon isotope ratios of zooplankton and particulate organic matter (POM; predominantly phytoplankton) in the littoral zone of a saline lake. Parallel changes in the δ 13C values of zooplankton and their respective POMs indicated that there is spatial heterogeneity of the food web in this study area. Lake ecosystems are usually classified at the landscape level as either pelagic or littoral habitats. However, we showed small-scale spatial heterogeneity among planktonic food webs along an environmental gradient. Stable isotope data is useful for detecting spatial heterogeneity of habitats, populations, communities, and ecosystems.
PMCID: PMC3869182  PMID: 24392286
Food web; Plankton; Lake; Isotope; Spatial scale; Zooplankton; Phytoplankton; Carbon; Heterogeneity
18.  Mercury in the Pelagic Food Web of Lake Champlain 
Ecotoxicology (London, England)  2011;21(3):705-718.
Lake Champlain continues to experience mercury contamination resulting in public advisories to limit human consumption of top trophic level fish such as walleye. Prior research suggested that mercury levels in biota could be modified by differences in ecosystem productivity as well as mercury loadings. We investigated relationships between mercury in different trophic levels in Lake Champlain. We measured inorganic and methyl mercury in water, seston, and two size fractions of zooplankton from 13 sites representing a range of nutrient loading conditions and productivity. Biomass varied significantly across lake segments in all measured ecosystem compartments in response to significant differences in nutrient levels. Local environmental factors such as alkalinity influenced the partitioning of mercury between water and seston. Mercury incorporation into biota was influenced by the biomass and mercury content of different ecosystem strata. Pelagic fish tissue mercury was a function of fish length and the size of the mercury pool associated with large zooplankton. We used these observations to parameterize a model of mercury transfers in the Lake Champlain food web that accounts for ecosystem productivity effects. Simulations using the mercury trophic transfer model suggest that reductions of 25 to 75% in summertime dissolved eplimnetic total mercury will likely allow fish tissue mercury concentrations to drop to the target level of 0.3 µg g−1 in a 40-cm fish in all lake segments. Changes in nutrient loading and ecosystem productivity in eutrophic segments may delay any response to reduced dissolved mercury and may result in increases in fish tissue mercury.
PMCID: PMC4309279  PMID: 22193540
Lake Champlain; aquatic; mercury; zooplankton; fish
19.  High Genetic Diversity and Novelty in Eukaryotic Plankton Assemblages Inhabiting Saline Lakes in the Qaidam Basin 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112812.
Saline lakes are intriguing ecosystems harboring extremely productive microbial communities in spite of their extreme environmental conditions. We performed a comprehensive analysis of the genetic diversity (18S rRNA gene) of the planktonic microbial eukaryotes (nano- and picoeukaryotes) in six different inland saline lakes located in the Qaidam Basin. The novelty level are high, with about 11.23% of the whole dataset showing <90% identity to any previously reported sequence in GenBank. At least 4 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) in mesosaline lakes, while up to eighteen OTUs in hypersaline lakes show very low CCM and CEM scores, indicating that these sequences are highly distantly related to any existing sequence. Most of the 18S rRNA gene sequence reads obtained in investigated mesosaline lakes is closely related to Holozoa group (48.13%), whereas Stramenopiles (26.65%) and Alveolates (10.84%) are the next most common groups. Hypersaline lakes in the Qaidam Basin are also dominated by Holozoa group, accounting for 26.65% of the total number of sequence reads. Notably, Chlorophyta group are only found in high abundance in Lake Gasikule (28.00%), whereas less represented in other hypersaline lakes such as Gahai (0.50%) and Xiaochaidan (1.15%). Further analysis show that the compositions of planktonic eukaryotic assemblages are also most variable between different sampling sites in the same lake. Out of the parameters, four show significant correlation to this CCA: altitude, calcium, sodium and potassium concentrations. Overall, this study shows important gaps in the current knowledge about planktonic microbial eukaryotes inhabiting Qaidam Basin (hyper) saline water bodies. The identified diversity and novelty patterns among eukaryotic plankton assemblages in saline lake are of great importance for understanding and interpreting their ecology and evolution.
PMCID: PMC4234628  PMID: 25401703
20.  Influence of Climate Change and Trophic Coupling across Four Trophic Levels in the Celtic Sea 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47408.
Climate change has had profound effects upon marine ecosystems, impacting across all trophic levels from plankton to apex predators. Determining the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems requires understanding the direct effects on all trophic levels as well as indirect effects mediated by trophic coupling. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of climate change on the pelagic food web in the Celtic Sea, a productive shelf region in the Northeast Atlantic. Using long-term data, we examined possible direct and indirect ‘bottom-up’ climate effects across four trophic levels: phytoplankton, zooplankton, mid-trophic level fish and seabirds. During the period 1986–2007, although there was no temporal trend in the North Atlantic Oscillation index (NAO), the decadal mean Sea Surface Temperature (SST) in the Celtic Sea increased by 0.66±0.02°C. Despite this, there was only a weak signal of climate change in the Celtic Sea food web. Changes in plankton community structure were found, however this was not related to SST or NAO. A negative relationship occurred between herring abundance (0- and 1-group) and spring SST (0-group: p = 0.02, slope = −0.305±0.125; 1-group: p = 0.04, slope = −0.410±0.193). Seabird demographics showed complex species–specific responses. There was evidence of direct effects of spring NAO (on black-legged kittiwake population growth rate: p = 0.03, slope = 0.0314±0.014) as well as indirect bottom-up effects of lagged spring SST (on razorbill breeding success: p = 0.01, slope = −0.144±0.05). Negative relationships between breeding success and population growth rate of razorbills and common guillemots may be explained by interactions between mid-trophic level fish. Our findings show that the impacts of climate change on the Celtic Sea ecosystem is not as marked as in nearby regions (e.g. the North Sea), emphasizing the need for more research at regional scales.
PMCID: PMC3472987  PMID: 23091621
21.  From Bacteria to Piscivorous Fish: Estimates of Whole-Lake and Component-Specific Metabolism with an Ecosystem Approach 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e101845.
The influence of functional group specific production and respiration patterns on a lake's metabolic balance remains poorly investigated to date compared to whole-system estimates of metabolism. We employed a summed component ecosystem approach for assessing lake-wide and functional group-specific metabolism (gross primary production (GPP) and respiration (R)) in shallow and eutrophic Lake Võrtsjärv in central Estonia during three years. Eleven functional groups were considered: piscivorous and benthivorous fish; phyto-, bacterio-, proto- and metazooplankton; benthic macroinvertebrates, bacteria and ciliates; macrophytes and their associated epiphytes. Metabolism of these groups was assessed by allometric equations coupled with daily records of temperature and hydrology of the lake and measurements of food web functional groups biomass. Results revealed that heterotrophy dominated most of the year, with a short autotrophic period observed in late spring. Most of the metabolism of the lake could be attributed to planktonic functional groups, with phytoplankton contributing the highest share (90% of GPP and 43% of R). A surge of protozooplankton and bacterioplankton populations forming the microbial loop caused the shift from auto- to heterotrophy in midsummer. Conversely, the benthic functional groups had overall a very small contribution to lake metabolism. We validated our ecosystem approach by comparing the GPP and R with those calculated from O2 measurements in the lake. Our findings are also in line with earlier productivity studies made with 14C or chlorophyll a (chl-a) based equations. Ideally, the ecosystem approach should be combined with diel O2 approach for investigating critical periods of metabolism shifts caused by dynamics in food-web processes.
PMCID: PMC4094472  PMID: 25014117
22.  Forests fuel fish growth in freshwater deltas 
Nature Communications  2014;5:4077.
Aquatic ecosystems are fuelled by biogeochemical inputs from surrounding lands and within-lake primary production. Disturbances that change these inputs may affect how aquatic ecosystems function and deliver services vital to humans. Here we test, using a forest cover gradient across eight separate catchments, whether disturbances that remove terrestrial biomass lower organic matter inputs into freshwater lakes, thereby reducing food web productivity. We focus on deltas formed at the stream-lake interface where terrestrial-derived particulate material is deposited. We find that organic matter export increases from more forested catchments, enhancing bacterial biomass. This transfers energy upwards through communities of heavier zooplankton, leading to a fourfold increase in weights of planktivorous young-of-the-year fish. At least 34% of fish biomass is supported by terrestrial primary production, increasing to 66% with greater forest cover. Habitat tracers confirm fish were closely associated with individual catchments, demonstrating that watershed protection and restoration increase biomass in critical life-stages of fish.
Vegetation close to streams and lakes provides organic matter to aquatic ecosystems. Here, the authors show that the dense forest cover around lakes feeds the near-shore lake food web through organic matter subsidies, leading to faster growth in planktivorous fish.
PMCID: PMC4082636  PMID: 24915965
Mercury (Hg) is a widespread environmental contaminant known for the neurotoxicity of its methylated forms, especially monomethylmercury, which bioaccumulates and biomagnifies in aquatic food webs. Mercury bioaccumulation and biomagnification rates are known to vary among species utilizing different food webs (benthic vs limnetic) within and between systems. The authors assessed whether carbon and nitrogen stable isotope values and total Hg (THg) concentrations differed between sympatric benthic and limnetic ecotypes and sexes of threespine stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus) from Benka Lake, Alaska, USA. The mean THg concentration in the limnetic ecotype was significantly higher (26 mg/kg dry wt, 16.1%) than that of the benthic ecotype. Trophic position and benthic carbon percentage utilized were both important determinants of THg concentration; however, the 2 variables were of approximately equal importance in females, whereas trophic position clearly explained more of the variance than benthic carbon percentage in males. Additionally, strong sex effects (45 mg/kg dry wt, 29.4%) were observed in both ecotypes, with female fish having lower THg concentrations than males. These results indicate that trophic ecology and sex are both important determinants of Hg contamination even within a single species and lake and likely play a role in governing Hg concentrations in higher trophic levels.
PMCID: PMC3684275  PMID: 23456641
Benthic carbon; Bioaccumulation; Biomagnification; Gasterosteus aculeatus; Trophic position
24.  Benchmarking Successional Progress in a Quantitative Food Web 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e90404.
Central to ecology and ecosystem management, succession theory aims to mechanistically explain and predict the assembly and development of ecological communities. Yet processes at lower hierarchical levels, e.g. at the species and functional group level, are rarely mechanistically linked to the under-investigated system-level processes which drive changes in ecosystem properties and functioning and are comparable across ecosystems. As a model system for secondary succession, seasonal plankton succession during the growing season is readily observable and largely driven autogenically. We used a long-term dataset from large, deep Lake Constance comprising biomasses, auto- and heterotrophic production, food quality, functional diversity, and mass-balanced food webs of the energy and nutrient flows between functional guilds of plankton and partly fish. Extracting population- and system-level indices from this dataset, we tested current hypotheses about the directionality of successional progress which are rooted in ecosystem theory, the metabolic theory of ecology, quantitative food web theory, thermodynamics, and information theory. Our results indicate that successional progress in Lake Constance is quantifiable, passing through predictable stages. Mean body mass, functional diversity, predator-prey weight ratios, trophic positions, system residence times of carbon and nutrients, and the complexity of the energy flow patterns increased during succession. In contrast, both the mass-specific metabolic activity and the system export decreased, while the succession rate exhibited a bimodal pattern. The weighted connectance introduced here represents a suitable index for assessing the evenness and interconnectedness of energy flows during succession. Diverging from earlier predictions, ascendency and eco-exergy did not increase during succession. Linking aspects of functional diversity to metabolic theory and food web complexity, we reconcile previously disjoint bodies of ecological theory to form a complete picture of successional progress within a pelagic food web. This comprehensive synthesis may be used as a benchmark for quantifying successional progress in other ecosystems.
PMCID: PMC3937422  PMID: 24587353
25.  Rapid sympatric ecological differentiation of crater lake cichlid fishes within historic times 
BMC Biology  2010;8:60.
After a volcano erupts, a lake may form in the cooled crater and become an isolated aquatic ecosystem. This makes fishes in crater lakes informative for understanding sympatric evolution and ecological diversification in barren environments. From a geological and limnological perspective, such research offers insight about the process of crater lake ecosystem establishment and speciation. In the present study we use genetic and coalescence approaches to infer the colonization history of Midas cichlid fishes (Amphilophus cf. citrinellus) that inhabit a very young crater lake in Nicaragua-the ca. 1800 year-old Lake Apoyeque. This lake holds two sympatric, endemic morphs of Midas cichlid: one with large, hypertrophied lips (~20% of the total population) and another with thin lips. Here we test the associated ecological, morphological and genetic diversification of these two morphs and their potential to represent incipient speciation.
Gene coalescence analyses [11 microsatellite loci and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences] suggest that crater lake Apoyeque was colonized in a single event from the large neighbouring great lake Managua only about 100 years ago. This founding in historic times is also reflected in the extremely low nuclear and mitochondrial genetic diversity in Apoyeque. We found that sympatric adult thin- and thick-lipped fishes occupy distinct ecological trophic niches. Diet, body shape, head width, pharyngeal jaw size and shape and stable isotope values all differ significantly between the two lip-morphs. The eco-morphological features pharyngeal jaw shape, body shape, stomach contents and stable isotopes (δ15N) all show a bimodal distribution of traits, which is compatible with the expectations of an initial stage of ecological speciation under disruptive selection. Genetic differentiation between the thin- and thick-lipped population is weak at mtDNA sequence (FST = 0.018) and absent at nuclear microsatellite loci (FST < 0.001).
This study provides empirical evidence of eco-morphological differentiation occurring very quickly after the colonization of a new and vacant habitat. Exceptionally low levels of neutral genetic diversity and inference from coalescence indicates that the Midas cichlid population in Apoyeque is much younger (ca. 100 years or generations old) than the crater itself (ca. 1 800 years old). This suggests either that the crater remained empty for many hundreds of years after its formation or that remnant volcanic activity prevented the establishment of a stable fish population during the early life of the crater lake. Based on our findings of eco-morphological variation in the Apoyeque Midas cichlids, and known patterns of adaptation in Midas cichlids in general, we suggest that this population may be in a very early stage of speciation (incipient species), promoted by disruptive selection and ecological diversification.
PMCID: PMC2880021  PMID: 20459869

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