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Vad, Csaba F.; Schneider, Claudia; Lukic, Dunja; Horvath, Zsofia; Kainz, Martin J.; Stibor, Herwig and Ptacnik, Robert (2020): Grazing resistance and poor food quality of a widespread mixotroph impair zooplankton secondary production. In: Oecologia, Vol. 193, No. 2: pp. 489-502

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Growing evidence suggests that global climate change promotes the dominance of mixotrophic algae especially in oligotrophic aquatic ecosystems. While theory predicts that mixotrophy increases trophic transfer efficiency in aquatic food webs, deleterious effects of some mixotrophs on consumers have also been reported. Here, using a widespread mixotrophic algal genus Dinobryon, we aimed to quantify how colonial taxa contribute to secondary production in lakes. We, therefore, studied the dietary effects of Dinobryon divergens on Cladocera (Daphnia longispina) and Copepoda (Eudiaptomus gracilis), representing two main taxonomic and functional groups of zooplankton. In feeding experiments, we showed that Dinobryon was largely grazing resistant and even inhibited the uptake of the high-quality reference food in Daphnia. Eudiaptomus could to some extent compensate with selective feeding, but a negative long-term food quality effect was also evident. Besides, Eudiaptomus was more sensitive to the pure diet of Dinobryon than Daphnia. Low lipid content and high C:P elemental ratio further supported the low nutritional value of the mixotroph. In a stable isotope approach analysing a natural plankton community, we found further evidence that carbon of Dinobryon was not conveyed efficiently to zooplankton. Our results show that the increasing dominance of colonial mixotrophs can result in reduced dietary energy transfer to consumers at higher trophic levels. In a wider perspective, global climate change favours the dominance of some detrimental mixotrophic algae which may constrain pelagic trophic transfer efficiency in oligotrophic systems, similarly to cyanobacteria in eutrophic lakes.

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