THE EFFECTS OF THERMAL HABITAT AND MACROINVERTEBRATE PREDATION ON THE CRUSTACEAN ZOOPLANKTON COMMUNITY OF A SMALL BOREAL SHIELD LAKE
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Climate change will affect all freshwater ecosystems via both direct physiological and indirect, biologically-mediated effects. Small lakes (< 10 ha) numerically dominate the Boreal Shield and represent an important habitat for aquatic biota. Small, shallow lakes are particularly responsive to climate-induced changes in thermal structure. Furthermore, biological interactions may be particularly important in small lakes where space, habitat heterogeneity, and thermal refugia are limited. Therefore, it is critical to understand and predict the consequences of climate change for community dynamics in small Boreal Shield lakes. Using 10 years of monitoring data and a field experiment I tested for differences in crustacean zooplankton community structure between warm and cool lake habitats. I classified years from a small, shallow Boreal Shield lake as ‘warm’ or ‘cool’ based on several characteristics of lake thermal structure. Since macroinvertebrates are often the main predators in small, shallow lakes, I further tested for potential interactions between lake thermal structure and spatially-dependent macroinvertebrate predation using in situ mesocosms. Body sizes of two ubiquitous crustacean zooplankton taxa, Leptodiaptomus minutus and Bosmina spp., were reduced in warm years, but no differences in abundance or diversity were detected at the annual scale. In contrast, in 15d enclosure experiments, crustacean zooplankton abundance and calanoid copepodid body size were reduced by the vertically-migrating predator Chaoborus punctipennis, but only in warm isothermal conditions. Zooplankton lowered their daytime depth distribution to avoid the surface-orienting notonectid predator, Buenoa macrotibialis, regardless of thermal habitat. No predation effect was detected in a hot (25ºC) isothermal habitat where both Chaoborus and notonectids were likely heat-stressed. Differences in abundance effects between the enclosure and monitoring data are likely due to the scales at which the analyses were conducted. Over short timescales predator-prey dynamics depended on lake thermal structure. However, over annual timescales zooplankton response was averaged across periods of seasonal change in thermal structure and biological processes, which may dampen the short-term effects associated with strong predation in isothermal conditions. Therefore, the importance of macroinvertebrate predators in regulating crustacean zooplankton community structure may increase if small lakes become progressively more isothermal with future climate change.