Master of Science (MSc)
Faculty of Science
Derek K. Gray
Educational guidance and editing
The Great Plains of North America are projected to become more arid as the climate changes over the next century. Salinity levels for lakes in this region are linked to climate, suggesting that lakes will become more saline as the climate becomes drier. One group of organisms that might be affected by increased salinity levels are the zooplankton, aquatic invertebrates that transfer energy from primary producers to macroinvertebrates and fish. Little is known about the ability of zooplankton to adapt to long-term increases in lake salinity levels. For my thesis, I used resurrection ecology to examine how a common zooplankter, Ceriodaphnia dubia, responded to long-term salinity changes in Moon Lake, North Dakota; a lake that has experienced fluctuating salinity levels and for which a history of salinity levels has been reconstructed from diatoms. My thesis had three objectives: 1) To determine how salinity influences the rate of hatching of C. dubia resting eggs in sediment core slices of different depths; 2) To determine if the salinity tolerance of C. dubia has changed through time; and 3) To determine if C. dubia, has existed in Moon Lake throughout the last 170 years, or if the species was absent from the lake during periods of high salinity. I collected seven sediment cores from Moon Lake and counted the number of Ceriodaphnia eggs present in 1 cm intervals of each core over the last 170 years. I then performed experiments to determine the salinity levels that were most likely to induce hatching in C. dubia eggs through time, and I performed toxicity tests to determine if salinity tolerance of the species has changed through time in concert with the salinity history of the lake. My egg counts showed that C. dubia was present in Moon Lake throughout all core layers during the past 170 years, even through periods of intense drought and high lake salinity levels. My experiments also showed that C. dubia eggs preferred to hatch in saltier water following periods of drought and in fresher water following wet periods. Similarly, my toxicity experiments showed that EC50 values for C. dubia were higher following episodes of drought. The presence of C. dubia eggs throughout the sediment core during the last 170 years combined with their ability to adapt to changing salinity levels, suggests that they will likely be able to persist through coming droughts. This is a positive result, as it suggests that ecosystem functions provided by this species, including the maintenance of water clarity through filtration and the provisioning of food for other invertebrates and juvenile fish, can be expected to continue during the coming period of drought. However, since my study focused on a single species, it is not possible to determine how other zooplankton species common to Prairie lakes will respond to coming drought conditions. Future studies that examine the limits of salinity tolerance for a variety of a species using distributional data and laboratory evolution experiments would be helpful for understanding which species are likely to thrive through the droughts expected during the middle of this century.
Elmarsafy, Mariam, "Can zooplankton on the North American Great Plains ‘keep up’ with climate-driven salinity change?" (2020). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 2337.