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Contrasting responses of lake ecosystems to environmental disturbance: a paleoecological perspective from northern Patagonia (Argentina)

Massaferro, Julieta, Correa-Metrio, Alex, Montes de Oca, Fernanda, Mauad, Melina
Hydrobiologia 2018 v.816 no.1 pp. 79-89
Chironomidae, aquatic communities, aquatic environment, basins, canopy, ecosystems, fauna, humans, insects, lakes, macrophytes, national parks, paleoecology, refuge habitats, temperature, treeline, vegetation cover, volcanic activity, watersheds, Argentina
Paleoecological studies are crucial for understanding ecosystem disturbance and resilience dynamics. However, nearly all the research related to the response of aquatic communities to disturbances has been developed at short-term ecological scales. In this study, we investigate the long-term response of chironomid insects of two lakes, to volcanic and other environmental disturbances that have taken place during the last 200 years. The studied lakes, Lake Verde and Lake Toncek, are located in the Nahuel Huapi National Park (northern Patagonia, Argentina), under contrasting environmental settings. Our results show that the main driver of faunal changes in both lakes is volcanism. Indeed, after the impact of the 1960 Puyehue/Calbuco volcanic events, the chironomid assemblage of Lake Verde recovered to initial conditions showing high resistance and a strong resilience to the impact. In this lake, the canopy, the presence of macrophytes, and the dynamic of the watershed are important determinants of resilience providing habitats for species colonization and/or by giving refugia to the community. Contrarily, chironomid assemblages from Lake Toncek did not recover to the original state after the impact of the ash. This lake is located above the tree line, and therefore it is highly probable that the lack of vegetation cover in the basin offered no protection for the aquatic environment, leaving the ecosystem highly exposed to the effect of the volcanic ashes. Subordinate to the effects of the volcanism, rising temperatures in the last 50 years and/or increasing human activities in the area, especially in L. Toncek, may also be responsible for the changes in chironomid assemblages.