Direct and indirect effects of fish on pelagicnitrogen and phosphorus availability in oligotrophic Arctic Alaskan lakes

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences



Publication Date



fish, pelagic, nitrogen, phosphorus, oligotrophic, arctic

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Last Page



The importance of fish nutrient recycling for lake primary production increases with lake productivity. However, fish in low-productivity lakes may have substantial indirect effects on nutrient recycling from lower trophic levels. We measured nutrient excretion rates from fish and zooplankton in oligotrophic Arctic lakes and investigated direct and indirect fish effects on consumer nutrient recycling. Fish nutrient excretion rates were small relative to phytoplankton nutrient demand. Zooplankton excretion, however, supplied 19%–130% and 37%–200% of phytoplankton nitrogen and phosphorus demand, respectively. Fish had a significant effect on zooplankton biomass; in lakes with fish, this was approximately 80% lower than in lakes without fish. The difference in zooplankton biomass was due primarily to a decrease in zooplankton density; no significant difference in average zooplankton size was observed between fish and fishless lakes. Fish also impacted zooplankton community composition; communities in lakes with fish were dominated by copepods compared with cladoceran dominance in lakes without fish. Because of lower zooplankton biomass, lakes with fish showed lower rates of zooplankton nitrogen and phosphorus excretion relative to lakes without fish. Thus, our results support the hypothesis that fish have major indirect effects on lake nutrient cycles, even when direct excretion from fish is minimal.

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