Ecological distribution of pelagic copepods and species relationship to acidification, liming and natural recovery in a boreal area

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Jens Petter NILSSEN *
Svein Birger WÆRVÅGEN
(*) Corresponding Author:
Jens Petter NILSSEN |


Distribution and ecology of pelagic copepods were studied in a boreal area strongly affected by acidification in southern Norway. Differential regional composition of bedrock geology and Quaternary deposits combined with liming have produced aquatic sites with contrasting acidification and recovery histories. The omnivorous species Eudiaptomus gracilis showed a striking ability to tolerate both acidification and chemical recovery. The predominantly carnivorous species Heterocope saliens increased numerically during acidification, both because it is tolerant to acidic environments and because fish predation diminished or disappeared altogether. After chemical recovery, H. saliens, having an endogenous egg-bank, most readily produced viable populations with numerical abundance depending upon fish predation pressure. Thermocyclops oithonoides and Cyclops scutifer were negatively affected by strongly acidic environments, whereas Mesocyclops leuckarti tolerated acidic conditions better. All three cyclopoid species increased in abundance after chemical recovery, most probably from small residual populations. The hypolimnetic C. scutifer faced dispersal problems in re-establishing following liming. Deep lakes (>20 m) harboured considerable residual populations of C. scutifer which recovered rapidly to pre-acidic conditions. Cyclops abyssorum inhabited the pelagial during early recovery of formerly chronically acidified lakes as a fugitive species, probably due to rapid dispersal capacities. Littoral cyclopoids, such as Acanthocyclops vernalis and Diacyclops nanus, were commonly distributed in the free waters of the most acidic lakes (pH = 4.5-4.8), but disappeared from the pelagial shortly after chemical recovery. The total community of pelagic copepods forms a promising tool to identify historical acidification and trajectories of recovery in the freshwater environment.

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