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Understanding the effects of climate change via disturbance on pristine arctic lakes — Multitrophic level response and recovery to a 12-yr, low-level fertilization experiment

August 2, 2021

Effects of climate change-driven disturbance on lake ecosystems can be subtle; indirect effects include increased nutrient loading that could impact ecosystem function. We designed a low-level fertilization experiment to mimic persistent, climate change-driven disturbances (deeper thaw, greater weathering, or thermokarst failure) delivering nutrients to arctic lakes. We measured responses of pelagic trophic levels over 12 yr in a fertilized deep lake with fish and a shallow fishless lake, compared to paired reference lakes, and monitored recovery for 6 yr. Relative to prefertilization in the deep lake, we observed a maximum pelagic response in chl a (+201%), dissolved oxygen (DO, −43%), and zooplankton biomass (+88%) during the fertilization period (2001–2012). Other responses to fertilization, such as water transparency and fish relative abundance, were delayed, but both ultimately declined. Phyto- and zooplankton biomass and community composition shifted with fertilization. The effects of fertilization were less pronounced in the paired shallow lakes, because of a natural thermokarst failure likely impacting the reference lake. In the deep lake there was (a) moderate resistance to change in ecosystem functions at all trophic levels, (b) eventual responses were often nonlinear, and (c) postfertilization recovery (return) times were most rapid at the base of the food web (2–4 yr) while higher trophic levels failed to recover after 6 yr. The timing and magnitude of responses to fertilization in these arctic lakes were similar to responses in other lakes, suggesting indirect effects of climate change that modify nutrient inputs may affect many lakes in the future.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Understanding the effects of climate change via disturbance on pristine arctic lakes — Multitrophic level response and recovery to a 12-yr, low-level fertilization experiment
DOI 10.1002/lno.11893
Authors Phaedra E. Budy, Casey A. Pennock, Anne E. Giblin, Chris Luecke, D. L. White, George Kling
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Limnology and Oceanography
Series Number
Index ID 70229703
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle