, 676:263

First online:

Implications of climate change for Daphnia in alpine lakes: predictions from long-term dynamics, spatial distribution, and a short-term experiment

  • Janet M. FischerAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Franklin and Marshall College Email author 
  • , Mark H. OlsonAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Franklin and Marshall College
  • , Craig E. WilliamsonAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, Miami University
  • , Jennifer C. EverhartAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Franklin and Marshall College
  • , Paula J. HoganAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, Miami University
  • , Jeremy A. MackAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, Miami University
  • , Kevin C. RoseAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, Miami University
  • , Jasmine E. SarosAffiliated withSchool of Biology and Ecology, University of MaineClimate Change Institute, University of Maine
  • , Jeffery R. StoneAffiliated withClimate Change Institute, University of Maine
    • , Rolf D. VinebrookeAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta

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Alpine lakes may be particularly useful as sentinels of climate change because they are highly sensitive to environmental conditions. To explore the potential biotic consequences of climate change in these systems, we conducted paleo- and neoecological observational studies, as well as a short-term experiment to examine Daphnia responses to changing environmental conditions in Rocky Mountain alpine lakes. Our analysis of a sediment core from Emerald Lake representing two periods from the Holocene revealed a significant positive relationship between the abundance of Daphnia remains and fossil Aulacoseira lirata, a diatom associated with deeper mixing depths. In addition, we detected a significant increase in mean Daphnia density in the long-term record (1991–2005) from Pipit Lake, a trend that correlated well with increases in mean surface temperature. In our survey of Daphnia in 10 lakes in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Daphnia abundance was positively correlated with both dissolved organic carbon concentration and temperature. Finally, our short-term incubation experiment demonstrated significant effects of physical conditions (i.e., temperature and/or UV radiation) and water chemistry on the juvenile growth rate of Daphnia. Overall, our findings highlight the sensitivity of Daphnia to changes in mixing depth, water temperature, and dissolved organic matter, three limnological variables that are highly sensitive to changes not only in air temperature, but also to precipitation and location of the treeline in alpine catchments. Thus, we conclude that Daphnia abundance could serve as a powerful sentinel response to climate change in alpine lakes of the Rocky Mountains.


Alpine zooplankton Lakes as sentinels Climate change Daphnia Temperature Dissolved organic carbon Mixing depth