Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 307–323 | Cite as

The influence of autotrophy, heterotrophy and temperature on pelagic food web efficiency in a brackish water system

  • Kristin DahlgrenEmail author
  • Ann-Kristin Eriksson Wiklund
  • Agneta Andersson


Climate change has been suggested to lead to higher temperature and increased heterotrophy in aquatic systems. The aim of this study was to test how these two factors affect metazooplankton and food web efficiency (FWE was defined as metazooplankton production divided by basal production). We tested the following hypotheses: (1) that lower metazooplankton production and lower FWE would be found in a food web based on heterotrophic production (bacteria) relative to one based on autotrophic production (phytoplankton), since the former induces a larger number of trophic levels; (2) the metazooplankton in the heterotrophic food web would contain less essential fatty acids than those from the autotrophic food web; and (3) that higher temperature would lead to increased FWE. To test these hypotheses, a mesocosm experiment was established at two different temperatures (5 and 10°C) with a dominance of either autotrophic (NP) or heterotrophic basal production (CNP). Metazooplankton production increased with temperature, but was not significantly affected by differences in basal production. However, increased heterotrophy did lead to decreased fatty acid content and lower individual weight in the zooplankton. FWE increased with autotrophy and temperature in the following order: 5CNP < 10CNP < 5NP < 10NP. Our results indicate that in the climate change scenario we considered, the temperature will have a positive effect on FWE, whereas the increase in heterotrophy will have a negative effect on FWE. Furthermore, the quality and individual weight of the metazooplankton will be reduced, with possible negative effects on higher trophic levels.


Pelagic food web efficiency Food quality Climate change Baltic Sea 



This study was funded by a grant from the Swedish Research Council for the Environment, Agricultural and Spatial Planning awarded to A. Andersson (21.0/2004-0376). We thank P. Mathisen, C-H. Stangenberg and Y. Zebühr for performing the biological and chemical analyses. We are grateful for the use of the laboratory facilities at the Umeå Marine Sciences Centre.

Supplementary material

10452_2011_9355_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 15 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristin Dahlgren
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ann-Kristin Eriksson Wiklund
    • 3
  • Agneta Andersson
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Environmental SciencesUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden
  2. 2.Umeå Marine Sciences CentreHörneforsSweden
  3. 3.Department of Applied Environmental ScienceStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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