Spatial distribution of zooplankton communities between the Sphagnum mat and open water in a dystrophic lake
The composition and dynamics of zooplankton (Rotifera, Crustacea) communities were studied in a dystrophic lake (Drawieński National Park, northern Poland). The investigated lake was a typical mid-forest lake of a small area (ca. 0.65 ha) but relatively deep (Zmax = 6.8m) and covered with a peat (Sphagnum sp.) mat. The study was made in the shallow part of the lake (Z = 0.5 m). Zooplankton was collected twice in August 2004, in triplicate subsamples, taken from three stations (1. under the peat mat, 2. the transitional zone between the peat mat and open water area and 3. open water zone) from two different sites within the same lake. The distance between sampling stations within a transect was ca. 1.5 m. The whole area under study was not greater than 10 m2. Therefore the results concern the very small-scale distribution of zooplankton. The aim of the study was to find out whether spatial segregation of the zooplankton community and the dominating species between the Sphagnum mat and open water zone as well as in the transitional zone between both zones takes place in a dystrophic lake and whether the moss mat can be considered as an anti-predator refuge. Both the species number and zooplankton densities differed between the stations along a transect, being the highest (40 zooplankton species and mean 150 ind l–1 for the whole zooplankton community) in the peat mat and lowest (12 species and 72 ind l–1) in the open water zone. Humic-water species constituted 24% of the species composition of rotifer and 14% of the crustacean community. Cladocerans prevailed numerically over rotifers. Dominating species – Bdelloidae, Keratella cochlearis Gosse, Polyarthra vulgaris (Carlin), Synchaeta pectinata Ehrenberg, Trichocerca insignis Carlin, Alonella excisa (Fischer), Ceriodaphnia quadrangula (O.F. Muller) – revealed a differentiated pattern of spatial distribution. The mean Shannon-Weaver biodiversity index of zooplankton was not notably high and amounted to 1.45. The highest values were found in the peat mat (mean – 1.76 for rotifers and 0.67 for crustaceans), while the lowest values were found in the open water (0.99 and 0.36 respectively). These results suggest that in the site connected with Sphagnum moss in a humic lake more diverse and abundant zooplankton occurs in relation to other habitats. The differences in zooplankton distribution between the peat mat and the open water zone of the dystrophic lake seems to be affected by biological interactions which relate to predator presence, both vertebrate and invertebrate, and competition between large cladocerans and smaller rotifers. Due to the dominance of larger forms of zooplankton it may be supposed that invertebrate predators may have a more pronounced effect. The habitat within the Sphagnum moss can be considered as a predictable refugium.
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