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Keywords:

  • Cladocera;
  • Copepoda;
  • herbivory;
  • phytoplankton;
  • size spectrum;
  • top-down control;
  • zooplankton

The differences in the impact of two major groups of herbivorous zooplankton (Cladocera and Copepoda) on summer phytoplankton in a mesotrophic lake were studied. Field experiments were performed in which phytoplankton were exposed to different densities of two major types of herbivorous zooplankton, cladocerans and copepods. Contrary to expectation, neither of the two zooplankton groups significantly reduced phytoplankton biomass. However, there were strong and contrasting impacts on phytoplankton size structure and on individual taxa. Cladocerans suppressed small phytoplankton, while copepods suppressed large phytoplankton. The unaffected size classes compensated for the loss of those affected by enhanced growth. After contamination of the copepod mesocosms with the cladoceran Daphnia, the combined impact of both zooplankton groups caused a decline in total phytoplankton biomass.