We assessed changes in Lake Ontario zooplankton biomass, production, and community composition before (1987–1991) and after (2001–2005) invasion-induced ecosystem changes. The ecosystem changes were associated with establishment of invasive dreissenid mussels and invasive predatory cladocerans (Bythotrephes and Cercopagis). Whole-lake total epilimnetic plus metalimnetic zooplankton production declined by approximately half from 42.45 (g dry wt∙m−2∙ year−1) during 1987–1991 to 21.91 (g dry wt∙m−2∙ year−1) in 2003 and averaged 21.01 (g dry wt∙m−2∙ year−1) during 2001–2005. Analysis of two independent data sets indicates that the mean biomass and biomass proportion of cyclopoid copepods declined while the same measures increased for the invasive predatory cladocerans. Changes in means and proportions of all other zooplankton groups were not consistent between the data sets. Cyclopoid copepod biomass and production declined by factors ranging from 3.6 to 5.7. Invasive predatory cladoceran biomass averaged from 5.0% to 8.0% of the total zooplankton biomass. The zooplankton community was otherwise resilient to the invasion-induced disruption as zooplankton species richness and diversity were unaffected. Zooplankton production was likely reduced by declines in primary productivity but may have declined further due to increased predation by alewives and invasive predatory cladocerans. Shifts in zooplankton community structure were consistent with increased predation pressure on cyclopoid copepods by alewives and invasive predatory cladocerans. Predicted declines in the proportion of small cladocerans were not evident. This study represents the first direct comparison of changes in Lake Ontario zooplankton production before and after the invasion-induced disruption and will be important to food web-scale investigations of invasion effects.
Additional publication details
The Lake Ontario zooplankton community before (1987-1991) and after (2001-2005) invasion-induced ecosystem change