In Lake Simcoe, a large lake in southern Ontario, Canada, with more than 50% of its surface area <15 m deep, dreissenid mussels are abundant in the extensive nearshore zone but not offshore. We hypothesized that mussel grazing would depress chlorophyll a (Chl-a) concentrations in the nearshore compared to the offshore while alleviating nearshore phosphorus (P) deficiency through nutrient regeneration. During both years of our study Chl-a concentration and other indicators of phytoplankton biomass, including particulate carbon (C), nitrogen, P, and silicon, were lower in the nearshore areas of Lake Simcoe where the exotic invader Dreissenia polymorpha was in contact with overlying epilimnetic water. In the first year of our study, grazing and associated nutrient regeneration activity seemed to reduce P deficiency in phytoplankton in the dreissenid-impacted shallow locations. In the second year, however, phytoplankton in the nearshore dreissenid-affected areas remained as strongly P deficient as phytoplankton in offshore waters physically separated from dreissenid grazing. Photoacclimation in the nearshore phytoplankton was evident in higher particulate C:Chl-a ratios and higher effective absorptive cross section of photosystem II (σPS II) throughout the stratified sampling season compared to offshore phytoplankton. A multiple linear regression utilizing the mean light intensity in the mixed layer as well as total P (TP) resulted in better predictions of Chl-a than TP alone. We conclude that, in shallow lakes where transparency is strongly impacted by dreissenid grazing, the comparison of Chl-a-TP relationships over time will require accounting for the effect of changing transparency.
- Lake Simcoe
- Nutrient status