, Volume 780, Issue 1, pp 59–69 | Cite as

Is fish able to regulate filamentous blue-green dominated phytoplankton?

  • Tiina Nõges
  • Ain Järvalt
  • Juta Haberman
  • Priit Zingel
  • Peeter Nõges


Efficient zooplankton grazing is a prerequisite for establishing a cascading food web control over phytoplankton in a lake. We studied if the top-down impact of fish could reach phytoplankton in a lake where the grazing pressure of small-sized zooplankton on filamentous phytoplankton is considered weak. We analysed >30 years of data on plankton, fish catches, hydrochemistry, hydrology, and meteorology from Võrtsjärv, a large and shallow eutrophic lake in Estonia with intensive commercial fisheries. The lake’s unregulated water level has been considered the strongest factor affecting the ecosystem through modifying sediment resuspension, internal loading of nutrients, and underwater light conditions and spawning conditions for fish. We found a negative relationship between phytoplankton biomass and pikeperch biomass indicating a potential top-down cascading effect in the food web. Top-down control of phytoplankton by zooplankton was reflected in a negative relationship between phyto- and zooplankton biomasses. A decrease of the individual weight of crustacean zooplankton with increasing biomass of small fish suggested top-down control of zooplankton by planktivorous fish. In contrast, we could not demonstrate a direct linkage between piscivorous fish and small fish. The top-down food web impact of piscivores, however, was manifested at zooplankton level in a positive correlation of pikeperch biomass with the biomass of dominating cladoceran species Bosmina coregoni and the individual weight of copepods. At high biomasses of small fish, ciliate domination over metazooplankton increased and thus enhanced the strength of the microbial food web. According to our results, fishery management measures that increase small plankti- and benthivorous fish biomass have to be avoided as they have a cascading negative effect on the ecosystem health.


Ecosystem-based fishery management Large shallow lake Food web interactions Fish Phytoplankton Zooplankton Ciliates 



This work was supported by institutional research funding IUT 21-02 of the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, Estonian Science Foundation grant 9102, MARS project (Managing Aquatic ecosystems and water Resources under multiple Stress) funded by the European Union under the 7th Framework Programme, Theme 6 (Environment including Climate Change), contract no. 603378. We are very thankful to the two anonymous reviewers and to the handling editor of Hydrobiologia for their exceptionally helpful comments and suggestions.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tiina Nõges
    • 1
  • Ain Järvalt
    • 1
  • Juta Haberman
    • 1
  • Priit Zingel
    • 1
  • Peeter Nõges
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Limnology, Institute of Agricultural and Environmental ResearchEstonian University of Life SciencesTartu CountyEstonia

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