The zooplankton-phytoplankton interface in lakes of contrasting trophic status: an experimental comparison

James J. Elser, Heath J. Carney, Charles R. Goldman

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31 Scopus citations


We report here the results of an experimental study designed to compare algal responses to short-term manipulations of zooplankton in three California lakes which encompass a broad range of productivity (ultra-oligotrophic Lake Tahoe, mesotrophic Castle Lake, and strongly eutrophic Clear Lake). To assess the potential strength of grazing in each lake, we evaluated algal responses to a 16-fold range of zooplankton biomass. To better compare algal responses among lakes, we determined algal responses to grazing by a common grazer (Daphnia sp.) over a range of Daphnia densities from 1 to 16 animals per liter. Effects of both ambient grazers and Daphnia were strong in Castle Lake. However, neither ambient zooplankton nor Daphnia had much impact on phytoplankton in Clear Lake. In Lake Tahoe, no grazing impacts could be demonstrated for the ambient zooplankton but Daphnia grazing had dramatic effects. These results indicate weak coupling between phytoplankton and zooplankton in Clear Lake and Lake Tahoe, two lakes which lie near opposite extremes of lake trophic status for most lakes. These observations, along with work reported by other researchers, suggest that linkages between zooplankton and phytoplankton may be weak in lakes with either extremely low or high productivity. Biomanipulation approaches to recover hypereutrophic lakes which aim only to alter zooplankton size structure may be less effective if algal communities are dominated by large, inedible phytoplankton taxa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-82
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1990


  • biomanipulation
  • eutrophication
  • grazing
  • phytoplankton
  • trophic status
  • zooplankton


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