Although effects of land use/cover on nutrient concentrations in aquatic systems are well known, half or more of the variation in nutrient concentration remains unexplained by land use/cover alone. Hydrogeomorphic (HGM) landscape features can explain much remaining variation and influence food web interactions. To explore complex linkages among land use/cover, HGM features, reservoir productivity, and food webs, we sampled 11 Ohio reservoirs, ranging broadly in agricultural catchment land use/cover, for 3 years. We hypothesized that HGM features mediate the bottom-up effects of land use/cover on reservoir productivity, chlorophyll a, zooplankton, and recruitment of gizzard shad, an omnivorous fish species common throughout southeastern U.S. reservoirs and capable of exerting strong effects on food web and nutrient dynamics. We tested specific hypotheses using a model selection approach. Percent variation explained was highest for total nitrogen (R2 = 0.92), moderately high for total phosphorus, chlorophyll a, and rotifer biomass (R2 = 0.57 to 0.67), relatively low for crustacean zooplankton biomass and larval gizzard shad hatch abundance (R2 = 0.43 and 0.42), and high for larval gizzard shad survivor abundance (R2 = 0.79). The trophic status models included agricultural land use/cover and an HGM predictor, whereas the zooplankton models had few HGM predictors. The larval gizzard shad models had the highest complexity, including more than one HGM feature and food web components. We demonstrate the importance of integrating land use/cover, HGM features, and food web interactions to investigate critical interactions and feedbacks among physical, chemical, and biological components of linked land-water ecosystems.
Additional publication details
Hydrogeomorphic features mediate the effects of land use/cover on reservoir productivity and food webs