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Trophic control changes with season and nutrient loading in lakes.

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Experiments have revealed much about top-down and bottom-up control in ecosystems, but manipulative experiments are limited in spatial and temporal scale. To obtain a more nuanced understanding of trophic control over large scales, we explored long-term time-series data from 13 globally distributed lakes and used empirical dynamic modelling to quantify interaction strengths between zooplankton and phytoplankton over time within and across lakes. Across all lakes, top-down effects were associated with nutrients, switching from negative in mesotrophic lakes to positive in oligotrophic lakes. This result suggests that zooplankton nutrient recycling exceeds grazing pressure in nutrient-limited systems. Within individual lakes, results were consistent with a 'seasonal reset' hypothesis in which top-down and bottom-up interactions varied seasonally and were both strongest at the beginning of the growing season. Thus, trophic control is not static, but varies with abiotic conditions - dynamics that only become evident when observing changes over large spatial and temporal scales.

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