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Managing ecosystems without prior knowledge: pathological outcomes of lake liming

David G. Angeler, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
Stina Drakare, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
Richard K. Johnson, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
Stephan Köhler, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
Tobias Vrede, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-09794-220444

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Abstract

Management actions often need to be taken in the absence of ecological information to mitigate the impact of pressing environmental problems. Managers counteracted the detrimental effects of cultural acidification on aquatic ecosystems during the industrial era using liming to salvage biodiversity and ecosystem services. However, historical contingencies, i.e., whether lakes were naturally acidic or degraded because of acidification, were largely unknown and therefore not accounted for in management. It is uncertain whether liming outcomes had a potentially detrimental effect on naturally acidic lakes. Evidence from paleolimnological reconstructions allowed us to analyze community structure in limed acidified and naturally acidic lakes, and acidified and circumneutral references. We analyzed community structure of phytoplankton, zooplankton, macroinvertebrates (littoral, sublittoral, profundal), and fish between 2000 and 2004. Naturally acidic limed lakes formed communities that were not representative of the other lake types. The occurrence of fish species relevant for ecosystem service provisioning (fisheries potential) in naturally acidic limed lakes were confounded by biogeographical factors. In addition, sustained changes in water quality were conducive to harmful algal blooms. This highlights a pathological outcome of liming lakes when their naturally acidic conditions are not accounted for. Because liming is an important social-ecological system, sustained ecological change of lakes might incur undesired costs for societies in the long term.

Key words

biodiversity; community structure; ecosystem history; fish; invertebrates; lakes; liming; management; phytoplankton; zooplankton

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087