Homage to Hutchinson: does inter-annual climate variability affect zooplankton density and diversity?
G. Evelyn Hutchinson proposed that external control by climate limits the fundamental productivity and the possible diversity of ecological communities. These climatic drivers are currently changing as a result of human activity, which may herald a shift in the influence of climate on global ecosystems. Long-term records reveal a reduction in ice cover on northern lakes over the last several centuries. Hence, we explore whether inter-annual climatic variability, represented by ice cover, influences the productivity and diversity of zooplankton communities in long-term datasets for five lakes in Northern Wisconsin. We used a multilevel modeling approach to test three predictions: (1) density will increase, (2) diversity will increase, and (3) community composition will be altered. We found an inverse relationship between ice-off date and annual zooplankton density. Daphnia density, for example, was inversely related to ice-off date, with 10-fold variability across the gradient of ice-off dates in Northern Wisconsin. In contrast, we did not observe a consistent shift in diversity or community structure. Thus, from ice cover records of northern lakes we found support for Hutchinson’s idea that external climatic forces may regulate aquatic productivity; however, the response was numeric and we did not find evidence that lakes moved closer to maximum diversity on an inter-annual scale.
KeywordsZooplankton Climate Ice phenology Multilevel modeling LTER
We thank the National Science Foundation (NSF) for support of the North Temperate Lakes Long-Term Ecological Research site (DEB 0217533) and the staff of the Trout Lake field station for research support. Two reviewers provided constructive comments that improved this manuscript. This paper is a contribution to the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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