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Paola Ayala Borda

PhD student

Effect of watershed and hydrological connectivity on microbial planktonic communities in Arctic freshwaters


Arctic lakes and ponds are sensitive indicators of environmental change, which is influencing the way these important freshwater sources provide ecosystem services to local people from drinking water to fish production and as conduits of organic carbon and other nutrients that support lakes downstream as well as coastal Artic ecosystems. Changing climate conditions with hotter summer temperatures and shorter and warmer winters will likely severally affect the dynamics, structure and diversity of these lake and pond ecosystems that many animal and human communities depend on. Watersheds of Arctic lakes are additionally reacting to warming temperatures, with thawing permafrost changing the amount and type of material entering the lakes and reacting with the biological production in these systems.


My PhD project aims to improve the understanding of the diversity and production of microbial and plankton communities that provide food and other resources to small herbivores and invertebrates that will feed fish in their turn. Any changes driven by climate change in these very important organisms at the basis of the food web will affect the quality of lakes as a water source but also their ability to provide food through the food web via zooplankton to fish and ultimately humans.


My objectives are to 1) understand how watershed size and hydrological connectivity determine microbial diversity, function and production; and 2) how this diversity and biomass contribute carbon sources that structure the food web in downstream lakes.

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