, Volume 157, Issue 3, pp 531-543
Date: 24 Jun 2008

Temperature is the key factor explaining interannual variability of Daphnia development in spring: a modelling study

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Plankton succession during spring/early summer in temperate lakes is characterised by a highly predictable pattern: a phytoplankton bloom is grazed down by zooplankton (Daphnia) inducing a clear-water phase. This sequence of events is commonly understood as a cycle of consumer-resource dynamics, i.e. zooplankton growth is driven by food availability. Here we suggest, using a modelling study based on a size-structured Daphnia population model, that temperature and not food is the dominant factor driving interannual variability of Daphnia population dynamics during spring. Simply forcing this model with a seasonal temperature regime typical for temperate lakes is sufficient for generating the distinctive seasonal trajectory of Daphnia abundances observed in meso-eutrophic temperate lakes. According to a scenario analysis, a forward shift of the vernal temperature increase by 60 days will advance the timing of the Daphnia maximum on average by 54 days, while a forward shift in the start of the spring bloom by 60 days will advance the Daphnia maximum only by less than a third (17 days). Hence, the timing of temperature increase was more important for the timing of Daphnia development than the timing of the onset of algal growth. The effect of temperature is also large compared to the effect of applying different Daphnia mortality rates (0.055 or 0.1 day−1, 38 days), an almost tenfold variation in phytoplankton carrying capacity (25 days) and a tenfold variation in Daphnia overwintering abundance (3 days). However, the standing stock of Daphnia at its peak was almost exclusively controlled by the phytoplankton carrying capacity of the habitat and seems to be essentially independent of temperature. Hence, whereas food availability determines the standing stock of Daphnia at its spring maximum, temperature appears to be the most important factor driving the timing of the Daphnia maximum and the clear-water phase in spring.

Communicated by Ulrich Sommer.