Anthropogenic shift of planktonic food web structure in a coastal lagoon by freshwater flow regulation
Hemraj, Deevesh A
Leterme, Sophie Catherine
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Anthropogenic modification of aquatic systems has diverse impacts on food web interactions and ecosystem states. To reverse the adverse effects of modified freshwater flow, adequate management of discharge is required, especially due to higher water requirements and abstractions for human use. Here, we look at the effects of anthropogenically controlled freshwater flow regimes on the planktonic food web of a Ramsar listed coastal lagoon that is under recovery from degradation. Our results show shifts in water quality and plankton community interactions associated to changes in water flow. These shifts in food web interactions represent modifications in habitat complexity and water quality. At high flow, phytoplankton-zooplankton interactions dominate the food web. Conversely, at low flow, bacteria, viruses and nano/picoplankton interactions are more dominant, with a substantial switch of the food web towards heterotrophy. This switch can be associated with excess organic matter loading, decomposition of dead organisms, and synergistic and antagonistic interactions. We suggest that a lower variability in flow amplitude could be beneficial for the long-term sustaining of water quality and food web interactions, while improving the ecosystem health of systems facing similar stresses as the Coorong.