Terrestrial carbon is a resource, but not a subsidy, for lake zooplankton

By: , and 



Inputs of terrestrial organic carbon (t-OC) into lakes are often considered a resource subsidy for aquatic consumer production. Although there is evidence that terrestrial carbon can be incorporated into the tissues of aquatic consumers, its ability to enhance consumer production has been debated. Our research aims to evaluate the net effect of t-OC input on zooplankton. We used a survey of zooplankton production and resource use in ten lakes along a naturally occurring gradient of t-OC concentration to address these questions. Total and group-specific zooplankton production was negatively related to t-OC. Residual variation in zooplankton production that was not explained by t-OC was negatively related to terrestrial resource use (allochthony) by zooplankton. These results challenge the designation of terrestrial carbon as a resource subsidy; rather, the negative effect of reduced light penetration on the amount of suitable habitat and the low resource quality of t-OC appear to diminish zooplankton production. Our findings suggest that ongoing continental-scale increases in t-OC concentrations of lakes will likely have negative impacts on the productivity of aquatic food webs.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Terrestrial carbon is a resource, but not a subsidy, for lake zooplankton
Series title Ecology
DOI 10.1890/13-1586.1
Volume 95
Issue 5
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 7 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Ecology
First page 1236
Last page 1242
Country United States
State Michigan;Wisconsin
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