Tourists increase the contribution of autochthonous carbon to littoral zone food webs in oligotrophic dune lakes.
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Tourists can adversely influence the ecology of oligotrophic lakes by increasing algal production via direct nutrient inputs and/or re-suspension of sediments. To assess the influence of tourists on food web dynamics, we used the natural abundance of stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen to calculate the relative importance of autochthonous and allochthonous carbon sources to littoral zone food webs across five variously visited perched dune lakes on Fraser Island, Australia. The relative importance of autochthonous (phytoplankton and periphyton) carbon to littoral zone consumers was highly variable across taxa and lakes. Despite the potential influence of algal biomass, ambient nutrient concentrations and tannin concentrations on the contribution of autochthonous carbon to littoral zone food webs, none of these variables correlated to the per cent contribution of autochthonous carbon to consumer diets. Instead, autochthonous sources of carbon contributed more to the diets of aquatic consumers in heavily visited lakes than in less visited lakes, suggesting that tourist activities might drive these systems towards an increased reliance on autochthonous carbon. The assessment of the contribution of autochthonous carbon to littoral zone food webs may represent a more robust indicator of the impact of tourists in oligotrophic lakes than standard measures of nutrient concentrations and/or algal biomass. Keywords: allochthonous, monitoring, natural area management, oligotrophic lakes, wilderness areas.
Marine and Freshwater Research
© 2004 CSIRO. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Please refer to the journal for access to the definitive published version : use hypertext links.