Review of rotifers and crustaceans in highly acidic environments of pH values ≤3

Research paper by Rainer Deneke

Indexed on: 01 Aug '00Published on: 01 Aug '00Published in: Hydrobiologia


A review of the literature on rotifers and crustacean zooplankton in highly acidic environments revealed that data from eleven aquatic environments on three continents (America, Europe, Japan) with a pH ≤3 are available. Seven sites are influenced by volcanism or weathering processes in the catchment area, four others originated from human mining activities. Species richness was generally low. Only 16 species are found and 1–11 species are reported for each area. These studies clearly show that small littoral or benthic rotifers predominate over crustaceans under highly acidic conditions. In the Lusatian mining area (Germany), all lakes are colonized by zooplankton, even the most acidic one with a pH of 2.3. The core community consists of the rotifers Cephalodella hoodi, C. gibba, Elosa worallii and Rotaria rotatoria, with C. hoodi and E. worallii the most abundant. Larger species, such as the rotifer Brachionus sericus or the cladoceran Chydorus sphaericus, occur at a pH close to 3. A similar pattern is reported from acidic mining lakes in Illinois, U.S.A. Many of these species can also be found in less acidic softwater or even alkaline environments due to the tolerance of a broad range of pH values. Elosa worallii and Brachionus sericus are probably the most acidophilic rotifer species, though at least the latter can also grow at neutral pH in the laboratory. Clear understanding of the pH limits of B. sericus in nature may also have been complicated by the fact that it has probably in the past been wrongly named as B. urceolaris (phenotype `sericus'). The typical B. urceolaris cannot tolerate extremely low pH. Overall, generalist species with a worldwide distribution seem to play the major role in the colonization of anthropogenic highly acidic lakes.