Effect of watershed land use and lake age on zooplankton species richness
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Results of a field survey of southern Wisconsin shallow lakes suggested that watershed (catchment basin) land use has a significant and adverse effect on zooplankton species richness. Zooplankton communities in lakes with no riparian buffer zone, in agriculture-dominated watersheds, contained about half as many species as lakes in least-impact watersheds. In that study, the age of the lake was not taken into account. It is possible that agricultural lakes, often artificial, were so recently-constructed that they had not yet accumulated the equilibrium number of species characteristic of older lakes. In other words, it is possible that the interpretation of the results of the previous study is fatally flawed, if the results were an artifact of lake age, rather than an effect of land use. The major aim of this current study was to determine the ages of agricultural lakes and of lakes in least-impact watersheds, to test for an effect of lake age on zooplankton species richness, using the same sites from the previous study. We used an anova approach to test the null hypothesis that two factors, watershed land use and lake age, had no systematic effect on zooplankton species richness. We determined the age of 35 shallow lakes, using aerial photos, satellite images, and interviews of resource managers and land owners. We identified five artificial agricultural sites and five artificial sites in least-impact prairie watersheds. The artificial sites in this study ranged from 3 to 37 years in age, while natural lakes dated from the melting of the last glacier, about 9500 years ago. Our results suggest, that because artificial lake made up only about a third of the sites, and for the range of lake age and watershed land use, lake age did not have a significant effect on zooplankton species richness, while land use had a highly significant adverse effect. These results pose a larger question for future research. Namely, how quickly do newly-constructed lakes attain the equilibrium number of species seen in the previous study, and what is the quantitative relationship between lake age and zooplankton richness?
KeywordsShallow lake Land use Age effect Species richness Zooplankton Wisconsin
R. Bohanan made this research project possible, by organizing the research group and using funding from the NSF Research Experiences for Teachers Supplement to NSF LTER grant # DEB-9632–853. We are grateful to the private land owners who gave us valuable information concerning lake age, and to members of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, especially R. Bautz, who shared their extensive experience of the biology and age of these lakes.
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