1. Wind-induced sediment resuspension in shallow lakes affects many physical and biological processes, including food gathering by zooplankton. The effects of suspended sediment on clearance rate were determined for a dominant cladoceran, Daphnia carinata, and calanoid copepod, Boeckella hamata, in Lake Waihola, New Zealand.
2. Animals were incubated at multiple densities for 4 days in lake water containing different amounts of suspended lake sediment. Rates of harvest of major food organisms were determined for each sediment level (turbidity) from changes in net growth rate with grazer density.
3. Daphnia cleared all food organisms 7–40 μm in length at similar rates, but was less efficient in its removal of free bacteria, phytoplankton <7 μm, and large cyanobacterial filaments. Elevation of sediment turbidity from 2 to 10 nephelometric turbidity units (NTU) (63 mg DW L−1 added sediment) reduced Daphnia clearance of phytoplankton, heterotrophic flagellates and ciliates by 72–100%, and of amoebae and attached bacteria by 21–44%. Further inhibition occurred at higher turbidity.
4. Boeckella hamata removed microzooplankton primarily, rather than phytoplankton. The rate at which it cleared rotifers was reduced by 56% when turbidity was increased from 2.5 to 100 NTU.
5. In the absence of macrozooplankton, algal growth increased with sediment turbidity, suggesting that sediment also inhibits rotifer grazing.
6. As mid-day turbidity in Lake Waihola is ≥10 NTU about 40% of the time, sediment resuspension may play a major role in moderating energy flow and structuring pelagic communities in this lake.