University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
Invertebrate predation and trophic cascades in a pelagic food web
The multiple roles of Chaoborus flavicans (Meigen) in a clay-turbid lake
Doctoral dissertation, May 2006.
In lake ecosystems, both fish and invertebrate predators have dramatic effects on their prey communities. Fish predation selects large cladocerans while invertebrate predators prefer prey of smaller size. Since invertebrate predators are the preferred food items for fish, their occurrence at high densities is often connected with the absence or low number of fish. It is generally believed that invertebrate predators can play a significant role only if the density of planktivorous fish is low. However, in eutrophic clay-turbid Lake Hiidenvesi (southern Finland), a dense population of predatory Chaoborus flavicans larvae coexists with an abundant fish population. The population covers the stratifying area of the lake and attains a maximum population density of 23000 ind. m-2. This thesis aims to clarify the effects of Chaoborus flavicans on the zooplankton community and the environmental factors facilitating the coexistence of fish and invertebrate predators.
In the stratifying area of Lake Hiidenvesi, the seasonal succession of cladocerans was exceptional. The spring biomass peak of cladocerans was missing and the highest biomass occurred in midsummer. In early summer, the consumption rate by chaoborids clearly exceeded the production rate of cladocerans and each year the biomass peak of cladocerans coincided with the minimum chaoborid density. In contrast, consumption by fish was very low and each study year cladocerans attained maximum biomass simultaneously with the highest consumption by smelt (Osmerus eperlanus). The results indicated that Chaoborus flavicans was the main predator of cladocerans in the stratifying area of Lake Hiidenvesi.
The clay turbidity strongly contributed to the coexistence of chaoborids and smelt at high densities. Turbidity exceeding 30 NTU combined with light intensity below 0.1 μE m-2 s-1provides an efficient daytime refuge for chaoborids, but turbidity alone is not an adequate refuge unless combined with low light intensity. In the non-stratifying shallow basins of Lake Hiidenvesi, light intensity exceeds this level during summer days at the bottom of the lake, preventing Chaoborus forming a dense population in the shallow parts of the lake.
Chaoborus can be successful particularly in deep, clay-turbid lakes where they can remain high in the water column close to their epilimnetic prey. Suspended clay alters the trophic interactions by weakening the link between fish and Chaoborus, which in turn strengthens the effect of Chaoborus predation on crustacean zooplankton. Since food web management largely relies on manipulations of fish stocks and the cascading effects of such actions, the validity of the method in deep clay-turbid lakes may be questioned.
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Last updated 18.04.2006