Populations of the mayfly Cloeon dipterum from 48 ponds (3000 l fibre-glass tanks of 1 m depth) were monitored over the course of 1 year. To simulate possible patterns of climatic change, the ponds were subject to three temperature treatments: continuous heating to 3 °C above ambient; heating to 3 °C above ambient during the summer only; and no heating. Further experimental complexity included enhanced nutrient input into the ponds and the presence or absence of fish, giving a factorial combination of 3 temperature regimes × 2 nutrient levels × presence/absence of fish predation.
Few nymphs were found in the presence of fish. Where fish were absent, the temperature treatments did not significantly affect nymph abundances, and only marginally influenced mean nymph body-lengths. In contrast, the nutrient treatment had significant effects on both nymph abundance and size, with greater numbers of generally larger nymphs occurring in those fish-free ponds receiving additional nutrients. Adult emergence began earlier in the year from the heated ponds, particularly those ponds receiving additional nutrients. Adult body-length differed between temperature treatments, but consistent patterns were difficult to ascertain because of interactions with nutrient treatment and seasonal effects.
Our results show that during the short term at least, elevated temperature as a simulation of climate change does not have an overwhelming influence on either mayfly abundance or size. The influence of temperature is subtle and subject to complex interaction with other habitat variables. We therefore suggest that the direct consequences of small changes in temperature will likely be of little significance to C. dipterum, relative to indirect effects operating through interactions with predation and nutrient input.