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Climate change modulates structural and functional lake ecosystem responses to introduced anadromous salmon

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We integrated limnological, paleolimnological, and fisheries analyses in Tuya Lake, British Columbia, Canada, to explore the effects and interactions of climate warming and sockeye salmon introductions on northern lake ecology. We tracked millennially unprecedented, climate-correlated changes in inferred lake production, stratification, and trophic structure since the mid-1800s, most likely resulting from declining ice cover and enhanced stratification. Post-1970s algal (diatom) species turnover, coeval across several remote northern Cordilleran lakes, marked an apparent increase in warming and the induction of inferred nitrogen deficiencies in Tuya Lake. Lower post-stocking phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) concentrations and a strong P-modeled salmon biomass correlation (r 2 = 0.87) indicated salmon production reduced epilimnetic nutrient availability. Post-stocking chlorophyll reductions, late-summer algal dominance by heterocystous cyanobacteria and low-N-tolerant diatoms, and a strong chlorophyll-modeled salmon biomass correlation (r 2 = 0.87) indicated that salmon influenced lake productivity, most likely by enhancing climate-induced N-deficiencies. Predicted smolt-biomass nutrient exports were minimal, with post-introduction nutrient reductions likely related to planktivory and enhanced sedimentation losses. Our study highlights how climate warming changes northern lake ecosystem structure and functioning, influencing responses to subsequent stresses.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory (PEARL), Department of Biology, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada. 2: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region, Stock Assessment Division, Whitehorse, YT Y1A 3V1 Canada. 3: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region, Science Branch, Pacific Biological Station, Nanaimo, BC V9R 5K6, Canada. 4: Department of Biological Sciences, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID 83209-8007, USA.

Publication date: April 12, 2011

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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