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Waterkeyn A.,Mediterranean University | Grillas P.,Research Center for Mediterranean Wetlands Tour du Valat Arles France | Brendonck L.,Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology
Freshwater Biology

Keystone species can influence an ecosystem through a series of trophic (both direct and indirect) and non-trophic effects. In temporary ponds, tadpole shrimps were recently identified as keystone predators, but the full extent of their ecosystem impact is still poorly known. Using a large-scale mesocosm experiment, we quantified the impact of different Triops cancriformis densities on ecosystem properties: water quality (including chlorophyll a as measure for phytoplankton biomass) and the diversity and structure of macrophyte and zooplankton communities. Mesocosms of 400 L (1 m2 surface) were lined with natural pond sediment of two study ponds differing in their natural Triops densities (Triops-rich and Triops-poor pond) and inundated to allow hatching from the egg bank. Afterwards, four Triops density treatments were established in the mesocosms: 0 (control), 5, 25 and 100 Triops per m2. After 13 weeks, the two highest Triops densities significantly influenced the ecosystem functioning not only by triggering changes in the diversity and composition of the pond communities but also by affecting water quality through bioturbation. These results confirm that tadpole shrimp can function as ecosystem engineers in temporary ponds and could promote a shift from a clear water to a turbid state through a series of trophic and non-trophic level effects. © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Source

Therry L.,Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology | Gyulavari H.A.,Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology | Schillewaert S.,Laboratory of Socioecology and Social Evolution | Bonte D.,Ghent University | Stoks R.,Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology

While geographic trait variation along environmental clines is widespread, associated patterns in sexual selection remain largely unexplored. Geographic patterns in sexual selection may be expected if 1) phenotypes vary geographically and sexual selection is dependent on the local phenotypes in the population, and if 2) sexual selection is influenced by geographically structured environmental conditions. We quantified geographic variation in flight-related traits and flight performance in mated and unmated males and tested for geographic variation in sexual selection on these traits in the poleward range-expanding damselfly Coenagrion scitulum across a set of eleven core and edge populations ordered along thermal gradients in the larval and in the adult stage. We found little support for trait differentiation between core and edge populations, instead we found considerable geographic trait variation along the larval and adult thermal gradients. As expected under time constraints, body mass decreased with shorter larval growth seasons. Lower temperatures during the adult flight period were associated with a higher body mass, a higher flight speed and a higher fat content; these traits likely evolved to buffer flight ability at suboptimal temperatures and to optimize starvation resistance. Across the large geographic scale, we found a consistent higher flight duration in mated males. Instead, sexual selection for higher fat content was stronger in populations with lower adult flight temperatures and sexual selection for lower body mass acted only in edge populations. Our results indicate sexual selection on flight performance to be consistent over a large geographic scale and this despite the clear geographic patterns in sexual selection on the underlying morphological traits. Our results highlight that to fully understand the fitness implications of geographically changing trait patterns, researchers should consider the entire phenotype-performance-fitness axis and incorporate effects of geographically structured life-stage specific environmental conditions on this axis. © 2014 The Authors. Source

Haileselasie T.H.,Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology | Mergeay J.,Catholic University of Leuven | Weider L.J.,University of Oklahoma | Jeppesen E.,University of Aarhus | De Meester L.,Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology
Journal of Animal Ecology

Due to climate change, Arctic ice sheets are retreating. This leads to the formation of numerous new periglacial ponds and lakes, which are being colonized by planktonic organisms such as the water flea Daphnia. This system provides unique opportunities to test genotype colonization dynamics and the genetic assemblage of populations. Here, we studied clonal richness of the Daphnia pulex species complex in novel periglacial habitats created by glacial retreat in the Jakobshavn Isbræ area of western Greenland. Along a 10 km transect, we surveyed 73 periglacial habitats out of which 61 were colonized by Daphnia pulex. Hence, for our analysis, we used 21 ponds and 40 lakes in two clusters of habitats differing in age (estimated <50 years vs. >150 years). We tested the expectation that genetic diversity would be low in recently formed (i.e. young), small habitats, but would increase with increasing age and size. We identified a total of 42 genetically distinct clones belonging to two obligately asexual species of the D. pulex species complex: D. middendorffiana and the much more abundant D. pulicaria. While regional clonal richness was high, most clones were rare: 16 clones were restricted to a single habitat and the five most widespread clones accounted for 68% of all individuals sampled. On average, 3·2 clones (range: 1-12) coexisted in a given pond or lake. There was no relationship between clonal richness and habitat size when we controlled for habitat age. Whereas clonal richness was statistically higher in the cluster of older habitats when compared with the cluster of younger ponds and lakes, most young habitats were colonized by multiple genotypes. Our data suggest that newly formed (periglacial) ponds and lakes are colonized within decades by multiple genotypes via multiple colonization events, even in the smallest of our study systems (4 m2). © 2016 British Ecological Society. Source

Therry L.,French National Center for Scientific Research | Swaegers J.,Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology | Van Dinh K.,Technical University of Denmark | Bonte D.,Ghent University | Stoks R.,Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology
Freshwater Biology

Contemporary climate change triggers a poleward range shift in many species. A growing number of studies document evolutionary changes in traits accelerating range expansion (such as growth rate and dispersal-related traits). In contrast, the direct impact of decreasing conspecific densities towards the very edge of the expansion front has been neglected. Density effects may, however, have a profound direct impact on traits involved in range expansion and influence range dynamics. In this study, we contrast the effects of high conspecific larval density typical for established populations and low larval density typical for newly founded populations at the edge of the expansion front on a set of larval traits that may affect the range dynamics in the poleward moving damselfly Coenagrion scitulum. We therefore ran an outdoor mesocosm experiment with a low- and high-density treatment close to the species' northern expansion front. Density effects on survival, growth rate and body size are scored both during the pre-winter growth period and during the subsequent winter period. Additionally, foraging activity was scored at the end of the pre-winter period and body condition [size-corrected body mass, fat content and activity of phenoloxidase (PO)] was scored at the end of the winter period. The low-density treatment had strong direct positive effects on survival, growth rate and body size of larvae before winter indicating relaxed competition. Lower foraging activity at the low-density treatment indicated higher food availability at low conspecific densities. Interestingly, the initial density treatment had stronger effect than densities experienced at the time of quantification on survival during the pre-freezing winter period and body condition estimates at the end of the experiment, indicating also delayed effects of the initial density treatment. Survival throughout a freezing period indicated extreme winter conditions are not likely a limiting factor in the range expansion of this Mediterranean species. The increased survival and individual growth rates (through causing shifts in voltinism) at low conspecific density will translate in increased population growth rates. Furthermore, nutritional advantages at low conspecific density may increase investment in dispersal ability. Together, these direct and delayed density-dependent effects that gradually increase towards the expansion front are expected to accelerate range expansion. © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Source

Lemmens P.,Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology | Mergeay J.,Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology | Mergeay J.,Research Institute for Nature and Forest | de Bie T.,Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology | And 4 more authors.

Biodiversity and nature values in anthropogenic landscapes often depend on land use practices and management. Evaluations of the association between management and biodiversity remain, however, comparatively scarce, especially in aquatic systems. Furthermore, studies also tend to focus on a limited set of organism groups at the local scale, whereas a multi-group approach at the landscape scale is to be preferred. This study aims to investigate the effect of pond management on the diversity of multiple aquatic organism groups (e.g. phytoplankton, zooplankton, several groups of macro-invertebrates, submerged and emergent macrophytes) at local and regional spatial scales. For this purpose, we performed a field study of 39 shallow man-made ponds representing five different management types. Our results indicate that fish stock management and periodic pond drainage are crucial drivers of pond biodiversity. Furthermore, this study provides insight in how the management of eutrophied ponds can contribute to aquatic biodiversity. A combination of regular draining of ponds with efforts to keep ponds free of fish seems to be highly beneficial for the biodiversity of many groups of aquatic organisms at local and regional scales. Regular draining combined with a stocking of fish at low biomass is also preferable to infrequent draining and lack of fish stock control. These insights are essential for the development of conservation programs that aim long-term maintenance of regional biodiversity in pond areas across Europe. © 2013 Lemmens et al. Source

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