Existence of a macrophyte-dominated clear water state over a very wide range of nutrient concentrations in a small shallow lake

Abstract

Little Mere, a small shallow lake, has been monitored for four years, since its main source of nutrients (sewage effluent) was diverted. The lake has provided strong evidence for the persistence of a clear water state over a wide range of nutrient concentrations. It had clear water at extremely high nutrient concentrations prior to effluent diversion, associated with high densities of the large body-sized grazer, Daphnia magna, associated with low fish densities and fish predation. Following sewage effluent diversion in 1991, the nutrient concentrations significantly declined, the oxygen concentrations rose, and fish predation increased. The dominance of large body-sized grazers shifted to one of relatively smaller body-sized animals but the clear water state has been maintained. This is probably due to provision of refuges for grazers by large nymphaeid stands (also found prior to diversion). There has been a continued decrease in nutrient concentrations and expansion of the total macrophyte coverage, largely by submerged plants, following effluent diversion. The grazer community of Little Mere has also responded to this latter change with a decline in daphnids and increase in densities of weed-associated grazers. The presence of large densities of such open water grazers was the apparent main buffer mechanisms of the clear water state until 1994. The lake has, so far, maintained its clear water in the absence of such grazers. Thus, new buffer mechanisms appear to operate to stabilize the ecosystem. Little Mere appears to have shifted from previous top-down controlled clear water state to a bottom-up controlled clear water state.

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Beklioglu, M., Moss, B. Existence of a macrophyte-dominated clear water state over a very wide range of nutrient concentrations in a small shallow lake. Hydrobiologia 337, 93–106 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00028510

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Key words

  • sewage effluent
  • Daphnia
  • grazing
  • macrophytes
  • clear water
  • alternative stable states