US Fish & Wildlife Service


Date of this Version



Jolley JC, Albin ES, Kaemingk MA, Willis DW. 2013. A survey of aquatic invertebrate communities in Nebraska Sandhill lakes reveals potential alternative ecosystem states. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 4(1):151-162; e1944-687X. doi: 10.3996/082012-JFWM-072


Aquatic invertebrate communities are important to shallow lake ecosystem form and function, providing vital components to the food web and thereby important to achieving lake management goals. We characterized lake invertebrate communities and physicochemical variables in six Nebraska Sandhill lakes and examined these characteristics within an alternative stable state framework. Surveys were conducted during 2005 within each of these lakes by sampling aquatic macroinvertebrate abundance, zooplankton abundance and biomass, phytoplankton biomass, and physicochemical variables. When placed within an alternative stable state framework, the response variables exhibited a gradient of different ecosystem states. Two lakes appeared congruent with the clear water state (dense submergent vegetation, high invertebrate abundance and diversity, and low phytoplankton), two lakes were congruent with the turbid water state (high phytoplankton, low vegetation coverage, and low invertebrate abundance and diversity), and two lakes were intermediate, likely in a state of hysteresis (i.e., multiple states under equal environmental conditions). Principal component groupings further supported these findings by following similar lakespecific patterns with attributes of each stable state grouping meaningfully according to the observed lake states. The lakes contained varied fish communities, potentially influencing many measured metrics, through a top-down mechanism. Generally, lakes dominated by piscivorous fish displayed the clear water state, whereas lakes with abundant planktivores displayed the turbid water state. Shallow lakes containing dense invertebrate communities likely provide a rich food base to important fauna (migratory waterfowl) that aid in reaching desired management objectives for these systems. Multiple small lakes, in proximity, displaying divergent ecosystem states invites the opportunity for more in-depth analyses of driving mechanisms that will undoubtedly add to our ability to effectively manage these systems in the future.