Zooplankton abundance, species composition and ecology of tropical high-mountain crater lake Wonchi, Ethiopia

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Fasil Degefu *
Michael Schagerl
(*) Corresponding Author:
Fasil Degefu | fdegefu7@gmail.com

Abstract

The highlands of Ethiopia represent some of the remnants of undisturbed aquatic ecosystems; they are however highly threatened by significant socio–economic developments and associated anthropogenic impacts. Lake Wonchi is one of the few remaining fairly pristine high–mountain crater lakes in the central highlands and has never been investigated in detail. We present a first study on zooplankton taxa composition, abundance and biomass conducted over more than one year including the underlying environmental drivers. The lake is basic (pH 7.9-8.9), dilute (specific conductivity 185-245 µS cm-1) and oligotrophic with mean trophic status index of 36. The zooplankton community composition showed low species richness comprising a total of fourteen taxa with six cladocerans, one copepod and seven rotifers. Simpson´s index of diversity with values between 0.6 and 0.8 pointed towards a homogenous taxa occurrence within the single sample units. The overall mean (±SD) standing biomass of zooplankton was 62.02±25.76 mg dry mass m-3,which is low compared to other highland and rift valley lakes in Ethiopia. Cyclopoid copepods, in particular Thermocyclops ethiopiensis were the most abundant group and contributed 50% to the total zooplankton abundance followed by cladocerans (38%) and rotifers (12%). Non-metric multi-dimensional scaling resulted in a 3-dimensional model, which revealed similar community composition on successive sampling dates except in December/January and May. Temperature, alkalinity, conductivity and nitrate-N had significant influence on this seasonal pattern. A weak, but significant positive correlation (r=0.482, N=20, P=0.037) between Chlorophyll a and zooplankton biomass mirrors a bottom-up effect of phytoplankton biomass on zooplankton dynamics. The zooplankton of Lake Wonchi displayed some degree of segregation along the epi– and metalimnion during this study, but diel vertical migration was not observed. The results show that fish predation is not the key factor in structuring the vertical distribution of zooplankton in Lake Wonchi.


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