, Volume 76, Issue 4, pp 579-594
Date: 01 Jul 2014

Seasonal-dependence in the responses of biological communities to flood pulses in warm temperate floodplain lakes: implications for the “alternative stable states” model

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Abstract

In floodplains located in temperate regions, seasonal variations in temperature affect biological communities and these effects may overlap with those of the flood regime. In this study we explored if and how timing (with regard to temperature seasonality) influences the responses of planktonic and free-floating plants communities to floods in a warm temperate floodplain lake and assessed its relevance for determining state shifts. We took samples of zooplankton, phytoplankton, picoplankton, heterotrophic nanoflagellates and free-floating macrophytes at four sites of the lake characterized by the presence-absence of emergent or free-floating macrophytes along a 2-year period with marked hydrological fluctuations associated to river flood dynamics. We performed ANOVA tests to compare the responses of these communities to floods in cold and warm seasons and among sites. Planktonic communities developed high abundances in response to floods that occurred in the cold season, while the growth of free-floating macrophytes was impaired by low winter temperatures. Spring and summer floods favored profuse colonization by free-floating plants and limited the development of planktonic communities. The prolonged absence of floods during warm periods caused environmental conditions that favored Cyanobacteria growth, leading to a “low turbid waters” regime. The occurrence of floods early in the warm season caused phytoplankton dilution and promoted free-floating plant colonization and a shift towards a “high clear waters” state. Zooplankton:phytoplankton biomass ratio was very low during floods in warm seasons, thus zooplankton grazing on phytoplankton seemed to play a minor role in the maintenance of the clear regime.