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Temperature sensitivity of vertical distributions of zooplankton and planktivorous fish in a stratified lake

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Recent studies have indicated that temporal mismatches between interacting populations may be caused by consequences of global warming, for example rising spring temperatures. However, little is known about the impact of spatial temperature gradients, their vulnerability to global warming, and their importance for interacting populations. Here, we studied the vertical distribution of two planktivorous fish species (Coregonus spp.) and their zooplankton prey in the deep, oligotrophic Lake Stechlin (Germany). The night-time vertical centre of gravity both of the fish populations and of two of their prey groups, daphnids and copepods, were significantly correlated to the seasonally varying water temperature between March and December 2005. During the warmer months, fish and zooplankton occurred closer to the surface of the lake and experienced higher temperatures. The Coregonus populations differed significantly in their centre of gravity; hence, also, the temperature experienced by the populations was different. Likewise, daphnids and copepods occurred in different water depths and hence experienced different temperatures at least during the summer months. We conclude that any changes in the vertical temperature gradient of the lake as a result of potential future global warming may impact the two fish populations differently, and may shape interaction strength and timing between fish and their zooplankton prey.

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Many thanks to C. Helms, A. Türck, M. Sachtleben and R. Degebrodt who helped during sampling, and to K. Kalies who counted the zooplankton samples. The study was financially supported by the Aquashift priority program of the German Research Foundation (DFG, project no. Me 1686/5-1).

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Correspondence to Thomas Mehner.

Additional information

Priority programme of the German Research Foundation—contribution 9.

Communicated by Ulrich Sommer.

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Helland, I.P., Freyhof, J., Kasprzak, P. et al. Temperature sensitivity of vertical distributions of zooplankton and planktivorous fish in a stratified lake. Oecologia 151, 322–330 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-006-0541-x

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  • Coregonus
  • Habitat overlap
  • Night-time population depth