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A comparison of zooplankton densities and biomass in Lakes Peipsi and Võrtsjärv (Estonia): rotifers and crustaceans versus ciliates

Zingel, Priit, Haberman, Juta
Hydrobiologia 2008 v.599 no.1 pp. 153-159
Ciliophora, Copepoda, Rotifera, biomass, food chain, lakes, phytoplankton, zooplankton, Estonia
The abundance and biomass of ciliates, rotifers, cladocerans and copepods were studied in Lake Peipsi and Lake Võrtsjärv, both of which are shallow, turbid and large. Our hypothesis was that in a large shallow eutrophic lake, the ciliates could be the most important zooplankton group. The mean metazooplankton biomass was higher in Peipsi than in Võrtsjärv (mean values and SD, 1.8 ± 0.7 and 1.3 ± 0.6 mg WM l-¹). In Peipsi, the metazooplankton biomass was dominated by filtrators that feed on large-sized phytoplankton and are characteristic of oligo-mesotrophic waters. In Võrtsjärv, the metazooplankton was dominated by species characteristic of eutrophic waters. The planktonic ciliates in both lakes were dominated by oligotrichs. The biomass of ciliates was much greater in Võrtsjärv (mean 2.3 ± 1.4 mg WM l-¹) than in Peipsi (0.1 ± 0.08 mg WM l-¹). Ciliates formed about 60% of the total zooplankton biomass in Võrtsjärv but only 6% in Peipsi. Thus, the food chains in the two lakes differ: a grazing food chain in Peipsi and a detrital food-chain in Võrtsjärv. Consequently, top-down control of phytoplankton can be assumed to be much more important in Peipsi than in Võrtsjärv. When the detrital food chain prevails, the planktonic ciliates become the most important zooplankton group in shallow, eutrophic and large lake. Neglecting protozooplankton can result in serious underestimates of total zooplankton biomass since two-thirds of the zooplankton biomass in Võrtsjärv comprises ciliates.