Wave exposure and hydrologic connectivity create diversity in habitat and zooplankton assemblages at nearshore Long Point Bay, Lake Erie
J. Great Lakes Research
2013 (39): 56-65.
During an 11-day period in August 2008, we visited 102 sites along the nearshore (~60 km) of Long Point Bay. The purpose of our study was to evaluate the effects of wave exposure and hydrologic connectivity on zooplankton distributions. Long Point is located within the UNESCO Long Point Biosphere Reserve (26,250 ha) and encompasses the largest wetland complex in the Great Lakes system.We sampled for zooplankton, aquatic vegetation, temperature, specific conductance, pH, dissolved oxygen, dissolved organic carbon, water clarity, total nitrogen and depth.We evaluated the impacts of exposure using wind and fetch data to calculate a Relative Exposure Index (REI). Ordination techniques revealed a large variation in physical disturbance,water clarity, nutrient concentrations, water chemistry and aquatic vegetation that explained the distribution pattern of zooplankton at the 102 sites. Gradients of REI are strongly positively correlated with environmental variables, such as pH, dissolved oxygen and temperature and highly negatively correlated with conductivity and dissolved organic carbon. Visual inspection of the ordination site scores revealed the 102 sites clustering into six main groups based on spatial location and degree of surface-water connectivity to Long Point Bay. Sheltered sites (lowREI) have much higher abundance of zooplankton whereas sites that have high REI scores are characterized by relatively low zooplankton abundance with a high prevalence of Polyarthra sp. This is the largest study on the distribution pattern of zooplankton in Long Point Bay, and it highlights the importance of wave exposure and hydrologic connectivity in structuring the zooplankton community.