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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.
doi:10.1186/2046-9063-8-29
PMCID: PMC3547742  PMID: 23186395
Lake food-web; Diversity; Fish; Invertebrates; Salinity; Winter kill
2.  Loss of trophic complexity in saline prairie lakes as indicated by stable-isotope based community-metrics 
Aquatic Biosystems  2012;8:6.
Variations in climate, watershed characteristics and lake-internal processes often result in a large variability of food-web complexity in lake ecosystems. Some of the largest ranges in these environmental parameters can be found in lakes across the northern Great Plains as they are characterized by extreme gradients in respect to lake morphometry and water chemistry, with individual parameters often varying over several orders of magnitude. To evaluate the effects of environmental conditions on trophic complexity in prairie lake food-webs, we analyzed carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes of fishes, zooplankton and littoral macroinvertebrates in 20 lakes across southern Saskatchewan. Our two-year study identified very diverse patterns of trophic complexity, with was predominantly associated with among-lake differences. Small but significant temporal effects were also detected, which were predominantly associated with changes in productivity. The most influential parameters related to changes in trophic complexity among lakes were salinity, complexity of fish assemblage, and indicators of productivity (e.g. nutrients, Chl a). Generally, trophic diversity, number of trophic levels, and trophic redundancy were highest in productive freshwater lakes with diverse fish communities. Surprisingly, mesosaline lakes that were characterized by very low or no predation pressure from fishes were not colonized by invertebrate predators as it is often the case in boreal systems; instead, trophic complexity was further reduced. Together, prairie lake food-webs appear to be highly sensitive to changes in salinity and the loss of piscivorous fishes, making freshwater and mesosaline lakes most vulnerable to the impacts of climate variability. This is particularly important as global circulation models predict future climate warming to have disproportionate negative impacts on hydrologic conditions in this area.
doi:10.1186/2046-9063-8-6
PMCID: PMC3320526  PMID: 22480379
Food web; Great Plains; Saline lakes; Stable isotopes; Trophic complexity

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