Date of this Version
Limnol. Oceanogr. 9999, 2022, 1–16. doi: 10.1002/lno.12228
Sewage released from lakeside development can reshape ecological communities. Nearshore periphyton can rapidly assimilate sewage-associated nutrients, leading to increases of filamentous algal abundance, thus altering both food abundance and quality for grazers. In Lake Baikal, a large, ultra-oligotrophic, remote lake in Siberia, filamentous algal abundance has increased near lakeside developments, and localized sewage input is the suspected cause. These shifts are of particular interest in Lake Baikal, where endemic littoral biodiversity is high, lakeside settlements are mostly small, tourism is relatively high (~1.2 million visitors annually), and settlements are separated by large tracts of undisturbed shoreline, enabling investigation of heterogeneity and gradients of disturbance. We surveyed sites along 40 km of Baikal’s southwestern shore for sewage indicators—pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and microplastics—as well as periphyton and macroinvertebrate abundance and indicators of food web structure (stable isotopes and fatty acids). Summed PPCP concentrations were spatially related to lakeside development. As predicted, lakeside development was associated with more filamentous algae and lower abundance of sewagesensitive mollusks. Periphyton and macroinvertebrate stable isotopes and essential fatty acids suggested that food web structure otherwise remained similar across sites; yet, the invariance of amphipod fatty acid composition, relative to periphyton, suggested that grazers adjust behavior or metabolism to compensate for different periphyton assemblages. Our results demonstrate that even low levels of human disturbance can result in spatial heterogeneity of nearshore ecological responses, with potential for changing trophic interactions that propagate through the food web.