It has been a busy summer for our NERC-funded project RELATED (that stands for Restoring Ecosystems by Linking Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecological Dynamics). The project aims to test experimentally whether the productivity of aquatic food webs increases with the quantity and quality of terrestrial organic matter deposited in nearshore delta habitats. It builds on our previous work that showed forests fuel the growth of juvenile fish by subsidizing the base of the aquatic food web. RELATED will also feature much more work on unlocking the microbial ‘black box’ at the base of the food web as well as better understanding how greenhouse gas emissions might change with surrounding vegetation. Inland waters are major sources of atmospheric carbon and predicting their responses to future change is of major interest (some great recent work here, here, and here).
We’ve now just finished launching the experimental platform behind RELATED. Over the last 8 weeks, we’ve had a team of 8+ working tirelessly to submerge artificial lake sediments in 3 lakes. This has involved collecting, mulching, and sifting organic and inorganic materials, mixing these at an industrial scale, and outfitting nearly 300 mesocosms with the appropriate sampling gear. By replicating our experiment in 3 different lakes, we’ll be able to study terrestrial-aquatic linkages along gradients in eutrophication and climate change – the main drivers of change in the world’s inland waters. We’ve also had excellent student help from Laurentian University’s School of Architecture work to design and build a network of sampling platforms that will allow us to work without disturbing our sediments.
Here’s the main team celebrating the deployment of the experiment in Ramsey Lake: