2016 Status of the Lake Ontario Lower Trophic Levels

By: , and 



Significant Findings for Year 2016: 1) Offshore spring total phosphorus (TP) in 2016 was 6.2 μg/L, higher than 2014 and 2015 (4.0 and 4.2 μg/L); there was no significant decline 2001 - 2016. Offshore soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) was very low in 2016; Apr/May – Oct mean values were <1 μg/L. SRP has been stable in nearshore and offshore habitats since 1998 (range, 0.4 – 3.3 μg/L). Apr/May – Oct mean TP concentrations were low at both nearshore and offshore locations (range 5.2 – 9.9 μg/L). TP and SRP concentrations were significantly higher in nearshore compared to offshore habitats (7.6 μg/L vs 6.0 μg/L, TP; 1.4 μg/L vs 0.8 μg/L, SRP). 2) Chlorophyll-a and Secchi depth values are indicative of oligotrophic conditions in nearshore and offshore habitats. Offshore summer chlorophyll-a declined significantly 2000 - 2016. Nearshore chlorophyll-a increased 1995 - 2004 but then declined 2005 - 2016. Epilimnetic chlorophyll-a averaged between 1.4 and 2.5 μg/L across sites, and offshore and nearshore Apr/May – Oct concentrations were the same (1.9 μg/L). Summer Secchi depth increased significantly in the offshore 2000 - 2016 and showed no trend in the nearshore, 1995 – 2016. Apr/May – Oct Secchi depth ranged from 5.0 m to 13.0 m at individual sites and was significantly higher in the offshore (10.0 m) than nearshore (6.5 m). 3) In 2016, Apr/May – Oct epilimnetic zooplankton density and biomass were not different between the offshore and the nearshore, but calanoid copepod and Limnocalanus biomass were higher in the offshore (4.7 mg/m3 vs 2.6 mg/m3 and 0.7 mg/m3 vs 0.1 mg/m3), and bosminid biomass was higher in the nearshore (1.1 mg/m3 vs 0.3 mg/m3). Zooplankton size was significantly higher in the offshore than the nearshore (0.66 mm vs 0.49 mm). 4) Peak (July) epilimnetic biomass of Cercopagis was 1.0 mg/m3 in the nearshore and 1.4 mg/m3 in the offshore. Peak (October) epilimnetic biomass of Bythotrephes was 1.8 mg/m3 in the nearshore and 0.6 mg/m3 in the offshore. Bythotrephes biomass has increased significantly in the nearshore, 1995 – 2016. Bythotrephes was more abundant in 2016 than in the previous two years and the zooplankton community responded accordingly with a decrease in bosminds and cyclopoids. 5) Summer nearshore zooplankton density and biomass declined significantly 1995 – 2004 and then remained stable 2005 – 2016. The decline was due to reductions in bosminids and cyclopoids. 6) Summer epilimnetic offshore zooplankton density and biomass increased significantly 2005 – 2016. In 2016, offshore summer epilimnetic zooplankton biomass was 22 mg/m3--less than half that observed in 2015--but still slightly higher than the mean from 2005 – 2015 (21 mg/m3). 7) Most offshore zooplankton biomass was found in the metalimnion in July and September, and in the hypolimnion in October. Limnocalanus dominated the metalimnion in July while other calanoids and daphnids comprised most of the biomass in September. Limnocalanus and other calanoids dominated the October hypolimnion. Whole water column samples taken show a stable zooplankton biomass but changing community composition since 2010. Cyclopoids increased 2013 – 2015 and declined in 2016, while the calanoid pattern was the opposite. Daphnids declined 2014 – 2015 but rebounded in 2016.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title 2016 status of the Lake Ontario Lower Trophic levels
Chapter 16
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 30 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype Other Report
Larger Work Title Annual Report Bureau of Fisheries Lake Ontario Unit and St. Lawrence River Unit to Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s Lake Ontario Committee.
First page 16-1
Last page 16-30
Country Canada, United States
Other Geospatial Lake Ontario