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Salinity Induced Regime Shift in Shallow Brackish Lagoons

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Abstract

In brackish lagoons, Daphnia is replaced by calanoid copepods (Eurytemora affinis, Acartia spp.) and rotifers when a certain threshold (depending on, for instance, fish density) is reached. We hypothesize that loss of Daphnia induces a regime shift from clear to turbid at high nutrient concentrations. We conducted a factorial designed enclosure experiment with contrasting salinities (0–16‰), low fish predation (one three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus, m−2) and three levels of nutrient loading in a shallow brackish lagoon. A change point analysis suggests a strong regime shift from a clear to a turbid state at 6–8‰ salinity at low and high loading, but not for the control. From the low to the high salt regime, chlorophyll a (Chla), Chla:total phosphorus (TP) and Chla:total nitrogen (TN) ratios shifted highly significantly for all nutrient treatments, and the bacterioplankton production followed the changes in Chla. These changes occurred parallel with a shift from cladoceran and cyclopoid copepod to rotifer dominance. Monitoring data from 60 Danish brackish lagoons show increasing Chla with increasing TP and TN as well as interactive effects of TN and salinity, peaking at intermediate salinity. A relatively weak effect of salinity at low nutrient concentrations and the stronger effect at intermediate high salinity are in accordance with the experimental results. However, these data suggest a lower salinity threshold than in the experiment, which may be explained by a higher fish density. Our results have implications for the management of coastal lagoons both at present and in a future (predicted) warmer climate: (1) improved water quality can be obtained by reducing the nutrient loading or enhancing the freshwater input to a level triggering a shift to Daphnia dominance (typically <2‰), (2) fish manipulation is probably not a useful tool for brackish lagoons, unless the salinity is below the threshold for a potential shift to a clear Daphnia dominated state, and (3) more abrupt changes will expectedly occur in low-saline coastal lagoons at increasing salinity during summer in a future warmer climate.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We wish to thank the staff (Jane Stougaard-Pedersen, Lissa Skov Hansen, Birte Laustsen, Karina Jensen and Kirsten Thomsen) at the National Environmental Research Institute, Silkeborg, for technical assistance in the field and laboratory, and Anne Mette Poulsen and Tinna Christensen for editorial and layout assistance. We are grateful to Mogens Bøgeskov Andersen, Poul Hald Mortensen, Jens Åge Kristoffersen and “The Vorupør dowes” for splendid support in Vejlerne. The study was supported by the Danish Natural Science Research Council (research project “CONWOY” on the effects of climate changes on freshwater), the EU EUROLIMPACS project (http://www.eurolimpacs.ucl.ac.uk) on the effects of climate changes on aquatic ecosystems, the Finnish CARE research project, the EU Marie Curie Center, CREAM, at the National Environmental Research Institute, Roskilde and the Aage V. Jensen Foundation.

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Jeppesen, E., Søndergaard, M., Pedersen, A.R. et al. Salinity Induced Regime Shift in Shallow Brackish Lagoons. Ecosystems 10, 48–58 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-006-9007-6

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