The viability of the crustacean Eurycercus lamellatus (Branchiopoda, Cladocera) in a high mountain area in southern Norway
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The branchiopod Eurycercus lamellatus is widely distributed in Norwegian lakes, ranging from coastal to alpine areas. On the Hardangervidda mountain plateau in southern Norway, E. lamellatus was searched for in 144 lakes in 11 catchments in the western and 16 catchments in the central and eastern areas. The occurrence of E. lamellatus is mainly based on the diet of brown trout Salmo trutta. Eurycercus lamellatus was recorded in 25% and 70% of the lakes in these two areas, respectively. This may be due to striking differences in the environmental conditions, with more dilute water and lower water temperatures in western areas, and hence shorter growing seasons. The occurrence of E. lamellatus in central and eastern catchments increased with lake size, being found in 65% and 85% of lakes with a surface area of <2.0 and ≥2.0 km2, respectively. In the western area, E. lamellatus occurred less frequently in lakes above 1000 m a.s.l., which was not the case in central and eastern catchments. In this central part of Hardangervidda, the relative abundance of E. lamellatus in the diet of brown trout was studied more thoroughly in five different lakes, showing that they were preyed upon throughout the growing season (June to October). When the two big crustaceans Gammarus lacustris and Lepidurus arcticus are at low densities in these lakes, E. lamellatus became the staple food item for brown trout, except for larger fish (>400 mm). However, under high predation pressure, E. lamellatus also contributed significantly to the diet of larger fish. The abundance of E. lamellatus seems to vary highly on a yearly basis in one of the lakes (Sandvatn). Even though E. lamellatus is described as a typical littoral species, it was commonly found down to depths of 15 m.