Assessing the influence of geological and land-use gradients on zooplankton and phytoplankton biodiversity in the land between ecotone
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The Land Between (TLB) is an ecotone in south-central Ontario that represents a transition from limestone-dominated bedrock to granite-dominated bedrock, creating notable calcium and land-use gradients across this unique geographic region. The goal of this study was to investigate water quality and plankton community patterns in lakes across TLB as a function of geological and spatial drivers. Lake water quality profiles were differentiated based on calcium concentrations, and increased watershed land-use was related to increased lake nutrient levels. Plankton communities were not spatially structured. Phytoplankton communities were influenced by environmental drivers including nutrients and water temperature, as well as the inferred effect of zooplankton grazing. Zooplankton communities were influenced by environmental drivers including calcium concentration. Additionally, plankton communities appeared to be influenced by species-specific and trophic interactions. Overall, my research has provided insight into the important drivers of lake water quality and plankton communities in TLB.