Predation-driven dynamics of zooplankton and phytoplankton communities in a whole-lake experiment

James J. Elser, Stephen R. Carpenter

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38 Scopus citations


1. Species compositions of zooplankton and phytoplankton were followed in Tuesday Lake before and after experimental manipulation of its fish populations (addition of piscivorous largemouth bass, removal of planktivorous minnows). Plankton dynamics were compared to those of adjacent, unmanipulated Paul Lake, where piscivorous fish have been dominant historically. 2. Indices of similarity for the zooplankton communities in the two lakes in 1984 prior to the manipulation were low; however, following the manipulation in spring, 1985, similarity of the zooplankton in the two lakes rose considerably and remained high throughout 1986. This was the result of an increase in Tuesday Lake of previously rare large-bodied cladocerans (Daphnia pulex, Holopedium gibberum) which were the dominants in Paul Lake, and the disappearance in Tuesday Lake of the dominant small-bodied copepod Tropocyclops prasinus, a minor component of the Paul Lake zooplankton. These observations are consistent with prior observations of the effects of size-selective predation on zooplankton communities. 3. Phytoplankton communities also responded strongly to the manipulation, with similarity indices for the two lakes rising from low levels in 1984 to high levels of similarity in 1985 and 1986, reflecting the decrease of formerly dominant Tuesday Lake taxa which were unimportant in Paul Lake and the appearance or increase in Tuesday Lake of several taxa characteristic of the Paul Lake phytoplankton assemblage. these results clearly show that food web structure can have pronounced effects on community composition at all levels of the food web, and that, just as zooplankton communities are structured by sizeselective predation, phytoplankton communities are structured by herbivory. These observations may provide some insight into factors governing the complex distributions of phytoplankton species among various lakes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-154
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1988


  • Biomanipulation
  • Herbivory
  • Phytoplankton
  • Predation
  • Zooplankton


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