Published: Nov. 11, 2020
alpine lake, zooplankton, ice-off, Kelly Loria

In a new paper from Journal of Plankton Research, Kelly Loria, Kyle Christianson, and Pieter Johnson use a decade of data from an alpine lake in Colorado to understand how shifting climate is altering the zooplankton community.

Phenology of alpine zooplankton populations and the importance of lake ice-out


The prolonged ice cover inherent to alpine lakes incurs unique challenges for aquatic life, which are compounded by recent shifts in the timing and duration of ice cover. To understand the responses of alpine zooplankton, we analyzed a decade (2009–2019) of open-water samples of Daphnia pulicaria and Hesperodiaptomus shoshone for growth, reproduction and ultraviolet radiation tolerance. Due to reproductive differences between taxa, we expected clonal cladocerans to exhibit a more rapid response to ice-cover changes relative to copepods dependent on sexual reproduction. For D. pulicaria, biomass and melanization were lowest after ice clearance and increased through summer, whereas fecundity was highest shortly after ice-off. For H. shoshone, biomass and fecundity peaked later but were generally less variable through time. Among years, ice clearance date varied by 49 days; years with earlier ice-out and a longer growing season supported higher D. pulicaria biomass and clutch sizes along with greater H. shoshone fecundity. While these large-bodied, stress tolerant zooplankton taxa were relatively resilient to phenological shifts during the observation period, continued losses of ice cover may create unfavorably warm conditions and facilitate invasion by montane species, emphasizing the value of long-term data in assessing future changes to these sensitive ecosystems.

Loria, K. A., Christianson, K. R. and P. T. J. Johnson (2020). Phenology of alpine zooplankton populations and the importance of lake ice-out, Journal of Plankton Research 1-15. doi: