Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016VT82B

Impacts of climate change on winter-spring transition in plankton communities

Institute: Vermont
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $10,800 Total Non-Federal Funds: $21,652

Principal Investigators: Jason Stockwell, Allison Hrycik

Abstract: Winter has been an understudied season in aquatic ecology. Mounting evidence suggests that under-ice dynamics set the stage for lake biogeochemical and ecological processes during the ice-free period (i.e., the growing season). Climate change is expected to alter temperature and precipitation such that lake ice-cover characteristics will also be altered, with expected consequences for winter lake processes. Here, we propose a series of field experiments to test the effects of light limitation and zooplankton grazer density on under-ice plankton food web dynamics and community composition. We propose to conduct novel in situ mesocosm experiments to test the effects of zooplankton grazing intensity and light levels on phytoplankton dynamics in Shelburne Pond and Mississquoi Bay, Lake Champlain, Vermont. We expect that light limitation will primarily drive lower food web dynamics and phytoplankton community composition during ice cover. In addition, we hypothesize that inoculum concentrations of cyanobacteria will be higher in the early spring with release from light limitation, which will potentially influence the timing and intensity of cyanobacteria blooms during the summer. These experiments will contribute to our understanding of under-ice limnology and allow us to evaluate expectations for changes in north temperate lakes as precipitation patterns and ice-cover characteristics are altered by climate change.