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Winter in water: differential responses and the maintenance of biodiversity

Cite this dataset

McMeans, Bailey et al. (2021). Winter in water: differential responses and the maintenance of biodiversity [Dataset]. Dryad.


The ecological consequences of winter in freshwater systems are an understudied but rapidly emerging research area. Here, we argue that winter periods of reduced temperature and light (and potentially oxygen and resources) could play an underappreciated role in mediating the coexistence of species. This may be especially true for temperate and subarctic lakes, where seasonal changes in the thermal environment might fundamentally structure species interactions. With climate change already shortening ice-covered periods on temperate and polar lakes, consideration of how winter conditions shape biotic interactions is urgently needed. Using freshwater fishes in northern temperate lakes as a case study, we demonstrate how physiological trait differences (e.g., thermal preference, light sensitivity) drive differential behavioral responses to winter among competing species. Specifically, some species have a higher capacity for winter activity than others. Existing and new theory is presented to argue that such differential responses to winter can promote species coexistence. Importantly, if winter is a driver of niche differences that weaken competition between relative to within species, then shrinking winter periods could threaten coexistence by tipping the scales in favor of certain sets of species over others.


Data files include those used to generate Figs. 3, 4 and 5:

Alexie Lake - telemetry (positions and means), water temp and light profile

Lake of Two Rivers - telemetry (positions and means), water temp profile

ELA (lakes 373, 224) lake trout individual growth data

Full details of the dataset collection and processing are provided in the Supplemental Information file associated with the publication.