Total phosphorus and piscivore mass as drivers of food web characteristics in shallow lakes

Samuel J. Friederichs, Kyle D. Zimmer, Brian R. Herwig, Mark A. Hanson, John R. Fieberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We assessed the relative influence of total phosphorus and piscivore biomass on the abundance of benthivores, soft-rayed planktivores, spiny-rayed planktivores, zooplankton and phytoplankton in 69 shallow lakes in the prairie and parkland areas of Minnesota, USA. Piscivore biomass was the best predictor for three of these response variables, exhibiting a negative relationship with soft-rayed planktivores, a positive relationship with benthivores, and a weaker positive relationship with large-bodied cladocerans. Total phosphorus and piscivores comprised the best model for predicting spiny-rayed planktivores, while neither variable showed any strong relationship to small-bodied cladocerans. Total phosphorus was positively related to phytoplankton abundance, and was the best predictor among all candidate models. Moreover, contrary to predictions of trophic cascade theory, the relationship between chlorophyll a and total phosphorus did not differ between lakes with and without piscivores. Our results indicated top-down influences of piscivores extended through parts of two trophic levels, but failed to influence zooplankton - phytoplankton interactions, leaving phytoplankton abundance constrained largely by total phosphorus. Lack of a relationship between piscivores and phytoplankton was likely due to high densities of larval planktivores less susceptible to piscivory, as well as positive influences of spiny-rayed planktivores and benthivores on algal abundance. These results support the idea that top-down influences of piscivores on phytoplankton abundance may be reduced in more diverse fish communities where some prey species are less susceptible to piscivory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)756-765
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011


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