1. The responses of nutrient concentrations, plankton, macrophytes and macrozoobenthos to a reduction in external nutrient loading and to contemporary climatic change were studied in the shallow, moderately flushed Lake Müggelsee (Berlin, Germany). Weekly to biweekly data from 1979 to 2003 were compared with less frequently collected historical data.
2. A reduction of more than 50% in both total phosphorus (TP) and total nitrogen (TN) loading from the hypertrophic (1979–90) to the eutrophic period (1997–2003) was followed by an immediate decline in TN concentrations in the lake. TP concentrations only declined during winter and spring. During summer, phosphorus (P) release from the sediments was favoured by a drastic reduction in nitrate import. Therefore, Müggelsee acted as a net P source for 6 years after the external load reduction despite a mean water retention time of only 0.1–0.16 years.
3. Because of the likely limitation by P in spring and nitrogen (N) in summer, phytoplankton biovolume declined immediately after nutrient loading was reduced. The formerly dominant cyanobacteria (Oscillatoriales) Limnothrix redekei and Planktothrix agardhii disappeared, but the mean biovolume of the N2-fixing species Aphanizomenon flos-aquae remained constant.
4. The abundance of Daphnia spp. in summer decreased by half, while that of cyclopoid copepod species increased. Abundances of benthic macroinvertebrates (mainly chironomids) decreased by about 80%. A resource control of both phytoplankton and zooplankton is indicated by significant positive correlations between nutrient concentrations and phytoplankton biovolume and between phytoplankton and zooplankton biomass.
5. Water transparency in spring increased after nutrient reduction and resulted in re-colonisation of the lake by Potamogeton pectinatus. However, this process was severely hampered by periphyton shading and grazing by waterfowl and fish.
6. Water temperatures in Müggelsee have increased in winter, early spring and summer since 1979. The earlier development of the phytoplankton spring bloom was associated with shorter periods with ice cover, while direct temperature effects were responsible for the earlier development of the daphnid maximum in spring.