We surveyed the zooplankton of Lake St. Clair at 12 sites over ten dates from May to October 2000. Mean zooplankton density by site and date was 168.6 individuals/L, with Dreissena spp. veligers the most abundant taxon at 122.7 individuals/L. Rotifers, copepods, and cladocerans were far lower in mean abundance than in the early 1970s (rotifers, 20.9/L; copepods, 18.1/L; and cladocerans, 6.8/L). Species richness of zooplankton taxa in 2000 was 147, which was virtually unchanged from that of the first reported survey in 1894. Overall, the decline in abundance was greatest for rotifers (-90%) and about equal for cladocerans (-69%) and copepods (-66%). The decrease in abundance of Daphnia spp. was especially dramatic in Canadian waters. The decline in the southeastern region was significant for all three major groups of zooplankton, whereas in the northwestern region the decline was significant only for rotifers. From June to August 2000, Lake St. Clair open waters were numerically dominated by Dreissena spp. veligers, with a reduced abundance of rotifers and crustaceans compared to pre-Dreissena spp. surveys. Mean nutrient concentrations were not different from the 1970s, but Secchi depth (greater) and chlorophyll a concentration (lower) were. Disproportionate reduction in rotifer abundance is consistent with hypotheses implicating direct consumption by settled Dreissena spp. Reduction of crustaceans is likely due to more complex interactions including removal of nauplii as well as resource competition for phytoplankton.
Additional publication details
Lake St. Clair zooplankton: Evidence for post-dreissena changes