Oral Presentation Australian Society for Limnology Congress 2013

Meta-population dynamics in zooplankton communities: untangling the role of parasites, predators, and food availability (#10)

Amanda Valois 1 , Robert Poulin 1
  1. University of Otago, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Understanding the variation in populations across space and time is one of the central interests of ecologists today.  Zooplankton populations are influenced by a number of abiotic (e.g., temperature, water chemistry) and biotic (predation, resources, parasitism) factors, and the relative strengths and interactions among them have been shown to vary considerably.  Zooplankton inhabiting ponds represent an excellent model system to study the relative roles of these factors because of their well-defined boundaries and ease of sampling. However, most landscape-scale studies that have included parasitism in variance partitioning models have been conducted on lakes. Here we present a field study examining temporal and spatial variation in density among populations of the copepods Boeckella triarticulata and B. dilatata sampled from ponds in the South Island, New Zealand. This is the only landscape-level study on copepods that has examined the role of parasites as potential population regulators. Initial sampling (2012) revealed that 17% of the Boeckella populations were infected by parasites and that the presence of the parasite was not affected by hydroperiod or fish presence. Further sampling in 2013 was conducted in order to partition the variance in Boeckella population dynamics explained by changes in predation and resource availability in comparison to impacts attributed to parasitism. Subsequent analyses revealed that parasitism appears to play a significant role during the spring, when predation levels are low and resources are high.  However, increased predation and development times in the summer appear to limit the persistence, and therefore the effects, of the parasite.