Responses in zooplankton populations to food quality and quantity changes after whole lake nutrient enrichment of an oligotrophic sub-alpine reservoir
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- Persson, J., Vrede, T. & Holmgren, S. Aquat. Sci. (2008) 70: 142. doi:10.1007/s00027-007-7013-1
To sustain production of higher trophic levels in oligotrophic systems it is important that the trophic transfer of energy and nutrients is efficient. The phytoplankton-zooplankton interface is of specific interest since nutritional constraints can decouple energy flow in this step. Increased nutrient loading to oligotrophic systems with initially low abundance of high quality phytoplankton could induce changes in seston composition that reduces the nutritional value for zooplankton. We carried out a whole lake enrichment experiment for five years in two ultraoligotrophic subalpine hydroelectric power reservoirs in Sweden. The first year was an untreated reference year. Phosphorus and nitrogen were added to Lake Stora Mjölkvattnet during the following four years, and upstream Lake Burvattnet was used as an untreated reference lake. The phosphorus content of seston in the experimental lake increased in the years of fertilization and seston phosphorus to carbon ratios (atomic) were non-limiting for zooplankton growth. Decreasing concentrations of phosphorus in the reference lake lead to low phosphorus to carbon ratios that probably affected zooplankton growth negatively. The seston fatty acid concentrations and phytoplankton composition indicated good food quality in both lakes. The phytoplankton increased in the experimental lake despite an increase in zooplankton biomass. Some changes in the relative contributions of plankton species occurred but the same species were present. The crustacean zooplankton community composition shifted towards smaller species during the latter years in the experimental lake, indicating increased predation pressure from fish. A major result of this whole-lake ecosystem fertilization experiment is that gentle fertilization can significantly boost phytoplankton production while food quality remains high, and plankton community composition is not substantially altered.