Long-term changes in invertebrate size structure and composition in a boreal headwater lake with a known minnow introduction

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Andrew L. Labaj *
Joshua Kurek
Russ C. Weeber
John P. Smol
(*) Corresponding Author:
Andrew L. Labaj | a.labaj@queensu.ca


To determine the extent and timescale of predation impacts occurring in a historically fishless headwater lake near Sudbury, Canada, we surveyed the larval remains of the invertebrate predator Chaoborus and the pelagic cladoceran Bosmina, within a 210Pb dated lake sediment core. Size measures of fossil Bosmina mucros, carapaces, and antennules provided inferences of predation intensity. We observed two notable shifts of predation over the span of our ~500 year record. First, in the late-1800s, a considerable reduction in Bosmina mucro length (an indication of reduced invertebrate predation) occurred following centuries of stable, but high invertebrate predation intensity. Nearly concurrent with reduced invertebrate predation was a substantial decline in sedimentary-inferred chlorophyll a (a measure of primary production). We hypothesize that turn-of-the century climate warming resulted in a shift in the dominant lake stratification regime at our study site, thus impacting both invertebrate predation intensity and overall primary production. Second, following an observed minnow introduction in the 1980s, the Chaoborus assemblage experienced a minor shift from larger-to smaller-bodied species, and total chaoborid concentrations were generally the lowest and most stable of the record. C. americanus was not extirpated from the lake, despite large growth in the minnow population. Although C. americanus is a reliable indicator of fishless conditions when obligate planktivorous fish are considered, our data suggest that absolute fishless conditions may be difficult to establish with confidence using the presence of C. americanus mandibles alone, as this taxon can co-exist with minnow species that are not solely planktivorous. Our paleolimnological investigation provides temporal insight on predator-prey interactions occurring in small, shallow headwater lakes that have experienced historic shifts in predation due to long-term environmental change as well as a contemporary fish introduction.

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