Water levels of Lake Sevan (Armenia) were artificially lowered by nearly 20 m between 1949 and 1997. Lowered water levels, combined with increased eutrophication, were associated with seasonally anoxic conditions (lasting 1–4 months) near the bottom of the profundal zone each year during 1976–2004. In addition, the extents of the macrophyte zone and of certain substrate types were severely reduced following drawdown. Maximal depth of occurrence decreased by 2–44 m for at least for 50 species of benthic macroinvertebrates between 1982 and 2004 compared to 1937–1961. Species richness of benthic macroinvertebrates declined from 25 to three species at depths where seasonal anoxia occurred. Total biomass increased by a factor of 10 from the period 1928–1948 to 1976–1979 then declined by a factor of 3 to 4 between 1987 and 2004. Energy flow through detritivores was more than tripled during 1976–2004 compared to 1928–1971, a result of increased plankton primary production. In contrast, energy flow through herbivorous benthic macroinvertebrates decreased by a factor of nearly 5, due to reduced areal coverage of macrophytes. Energy flow through filter feeders did not change over the time period examined, but energy flow through the entire zoobenthos community was nearly tripled. The biomasses of Oligochaeta, Chironomidae, and total zoobenthos showed a delayed response to changes in primary production of 7–9, 2, and 2–4 years, respectively. These patterns may provide a basis to predict results of restoration efforts based on the abundance of the zoobenthos in future years as the level of the lake is restored and water quality improves.
Additional publication details
Trends in Benthic macroinvertebrate community Biomass and Energy Budgets in Lake Sevan, 1928-2004