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Spatial variability in the response of lower trophic levels after carp exclusion from a freshwater marsh

Abstract

Large common carp (Cyprinus carpio >30 cm) wereexcluded from a turbid, eutrophic coastal marsh of Lake Ontario with theconstruction of a fishway at the outlet. The marsh was sampledintensively for 2 seasons prior to (1993, 1994) and following (1997,1998) carp exclusion to study changes in water quality and shifts incommunity structure of phytoplankton and zooplankton. Samples werecollected from May to September in three habitats: open water, vegetated(cattail beds) and sewage lagoon. In the first year after carpexclusion, mean seasonal water turbidity decreased at all sites by49–80%; this was accompanied by growth of submergentplants in shallow, sheltered areas including the vicinity of cattails atthe vegetated site. This drop in turbidity was not significant in thesecond year after exclusion at the open water and lagoon sites, withturbidity levels declining by only 26–54% of1993–1994 values; only the vegetated site showed a sustaineddecrease in turbidity and persistent growth of submergent plants. At thevegetated site, increased clarity was concurrent with a significantreduction in edible algal biomass and an increased representation oflarge zooplankton grazers and substrate-associated cladocerans. At theopen water site, a spring clear-water phase was evident during the firstyear of exclusion and this coincided with the unusual appearance of alarge population of Daphnia. Compared to the other sites, thelagoon remained relatively turbid throughout the study. Results of thisstudy indicate that the response of lower trophic levels tobiomanipulation was variable from site-to-site and contributed to theco-existence of two alternative states in the marsh. In vegetated areas,water clarity was maintained by a positive feedback system betweenzooplankton and submergent macrophytes in the first 2 years followingexclusion. We suggest that both benthivore removal (to reducebioturbation) and planktivore reductions (to produce top down effects)were required to produce clear water and allow submersed macrophytegrowth. Although carp removal likely contributed to a 45%reduction in turbidity, an unusual climactic event in 1997, resulting indelayed fish spawning in the marsh, temporarily reduced zooplanktivoryand favoured zooplankton grazing-induced water clarity improvements.

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Lougheed, V.L., Chow-Fraser, P. Spatial variability in the response of lower trophic levels after carp exclusion from a freshwater marsh. Journal of Aquatic Ecosystem Stress and Recovery 9, 21–34 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1013180330252

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1013180330252

  • alternative states
  • biomanipulation
  • carp exclusion
  • eutrophic
  • freshwater marsh
  • Lake Ontario
  • phytoplankton
  • turbidity
  • zooplankton