Ecosystems, 6(2):101-113, 2003. Paper abstract bibtex
Ecosystem resistance to the impacts of diverse human insults depends on the replacement of sensitive species by ones more tolerant of the stressor. Here we present evidence from a whole-lake acidification experiment (Lake 302S, Experimental Lakes Area, Canada) that resistance and species compensation decline with increasing trophic level. Diverse and fast-growing algal and rotifer assemblages with high dispersal potentials showed significant compensatory species dynamics, resulting in the maintenance of total biomass despite 30%-80% declines in species richness. Canonical correspondence analysis showed that significant compensatory algal and rotifer dynamics were best explained by differential species tolerances of acidified chemical conditions coupled with release from resource limitation and predation. However, less diverse cladoceran, copepod, and fish assemblages showed significant declines in total biomass and weak species compensation with loss of species during acidification. In comparison, algal and zooplankton species dynamics remained relatively synchronized in a nearby unperturbed reference lake (Lake 239) during the experiment. As a result,Lake 302S showed limited ecosystem resistance to anthropogenic acidification. Therefore, we hypothesize that lost species will increase the susceptibility of acidified lakes to the adverse impacts of other environmental stressors (for example, climate warming, stratospheric ozone depletion, invasive species). Consequently, the ecosystem stability of boreal lakes is expected to decline as global change proceeds.