Exotic zebra mussels can alter lower trophic level dynamics in lakes that they colonize by consuming large quantities of phytoplankton. We simulated the indirect effects of zebra mussel grazing on Daphnia by artificially reducing phytoplankton concentration for in situ Daphnia reproduction experiments. The response of Daphnia reproduction to reduced phytoplankton was evaluated for both the in situ experiments and field observations in Oneida Lake, New York, U.S.A. Oneida Lake has had an abundant population of zebra mussels since 1992. Our experiments revealed that fecundity of individuals from two species of Daphnia was positively related to phytoplankton concentration during the spring clearwater phase, although there was no discernible effect of food concentration on fecundity in summer cyanobacteria-dominated assemblages. The experimental results suggest that Daphnia fecundity responds to chlorophyll a concentrations < 2 ??g l-1. The years since zebra mussels became abundant in Oneida Lake have been characterized by high water clarity, low chlorophyll concentrations, long clearwater phases, and low Daphnia biomass compared with the previous 17 years. The food web effects of zebra mussel grazing are complex and it will take more years for impacts at higher trophic levels to develop and be identified.
Additional publication details
Zebra mussel filter feeding and food-limited production of Daphnia: Recent changes in lower trophic level dynamics of Oneida Lake, New York, U.S.A.