Putting the lake back together 20 years later: what in the benthos have we learned about habitat linkages in lakes?

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Our understanding of lake ecosystems has undergone a paradigm shift over the past few decades. While the classic tradition in limnology has been the study of planktonic, open-water habitats, a shift toward integrative and cross-habitat watershed and whole-lake perspectives has occurred. This change in perspective integrates the role of terrestrial organic matter and littoral/benthic productivity into a general recognition of multiple basal resources and consumer-mediated habitat coupling in lakes. In light of this evolving paradigm, we address 4 broad questions relating to the role of benthic productivity and food web pathways in lakes. Specifically we ask: (1) What is the contribution of attached algae to whole-lake primary production? (2) Are attached algae an important basal resource for consumers? (3) What are the roles of benthic habitats and resources in supporting lake biodiversity? (4) What is the role of lake benthic pathways in aquatic–terrestrial linkages? While this paper focuses on the role of benthic productivity in lake food webs, it reflects a larger movement toward a more integrated and holistic understanding of lake ecosystems. Recognizing the magnitude and implications of aquatic habitat coupling is necessary to understand and conserve these globally important ecosystems in our current era of unprecedented global environmental change.



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