Water temperature and mixing depth affect timing and magnitude of events during spring succession of the plankton
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- Berger, S.A., Diehl, S., Stibor, H. et al. Oecologia (2007) 150: 643. doi:10.1007/s00442-006-0550-9
In many lakes, the most conspicuous seasonal events are the phytoplankton spring bloom and the subsequent clear-water phase, a period of low-phytoplankton biomass that is frequently caused by mesozooplankton (Daphnia) grazing. In Central European lakes, the timing of the clear-water phase is linked to large-scale climatic forcing, with warmer winters being followed by an earlier onset of the clear-water phase. Mild winters may favour an early build-up of Daphnia populations, both directly through increased surface temperatures and indirectly by reducing light limitation and enhancing algal production, all being a consequence of earlier thermal stratification. We conducted a field experiment to disentangle the separate impacts of stratification depth (affecting light supply) and temperature on the magnitude and timing of successional events in the plankton. We followed the dynamics of the phytoplankton spring bloom, the clear-water phase and the spring peak in Daphnia abundance in response to our experimental manipulations. Deeper mixing delayed the timing of all spring seasonal events and reduced the magnitudes of the phytoplankton bloom and the subsequent Daphnia peak. Colder temperatures retarded the timing of the clear-water phase and the subsequent Daphnia peak, whereas the timing of the phytoplankton peak was unrelated to temperature. Most effects of mixing depth (light) and temperature manipulations were independent, effects of mixing depth being more prevalent than effects of temperature. Because mixing depth governs both the light climate and the temperature regime in the mixed surface layer, we propose that climate-driven changes in the timing and depth of water column stratification may have far-reaching consequences for plankton dynamics and should receive increased attention.