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Concentration and biochemical gradients of seston in Lake Ontario

May 9, 2017

Spatial variability in resource quantity and quality may have important implications for the distribution and productivity of primary consumers. In Lake Ontario, ecosystem characteristics suggest the potential for significant spatial heterogeneity in seston quantity and quality, particularly due to the potential for nearshore-offshore gradients in allochthonous nutrient supply, and the formation of a deep chlorophyll layer (DCL) in July. We assessed total and zooplankton food particle size-fractionated chlorophyll a concentrations, as well as carbon-to-phosphorus stoichiometry and essential fatty acid composition of seston across a distance-from-shore and depth transect. We observed time, sampling depth, and distance from shore to be the best predictors of chlorophyll a concentration. Resource quality was much more homogenous in space, but there were strong patterns through time, as both stoichiometric and fatty acid qualities in general were greatest in May, and lowest in July/August. We did observe a peak in essential fatty acid concentration near the DCL in during time of formation, possibly due to differences in phytoplankton community composition between the DCL and epilimnion. These results suggest the potential for a spatially and temporally dynamic resource base for consumers in Lake Ontario, which may be important in developing a broader understanding of variable consumer productivity.

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