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Biomass size distributions as a tool for characterizing lake fish communities

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Biomass size distributions (BSDs) can be useful tools to (1) summarize complex information about fish community structure in a condensed graphical form, facilitating the characterization of freshwater fish communities, (2) compare the position of fish communities along environmental gradients and (3) elucidate major trophic interactions in freshwater fish communities. Biomass size distributions are presented by taxonomic and trophic group, for a selection of fish communities from 35 Scandinavian and eight Dutch lakes. They were used for the analysis of taxonomic and trophic shifts in the fish communities along a large environmental gradient, with productivity (expressed as total phosphorus concentration, TP) as its most important component. Regression analysis of fish community variables (such as proportion of cyprinids, or biomass of benthivores) were consistent with the semi‐quantitative conclusions drawn from BSDs, regarding taxonomic and trophic shifts with changes in TP in both Scandinavian and Dutch lakes, especially an increase in the amount and size of benthivorous fishes with increasing TP‐levels. In addition, differences in mortality and growth rates were shown to partly explain differences in BSDs. Biomass size distributions thus provide an integrative tool for qualitative and quantitative comparisons among fish communities.

Keywords: European lakes; fish community; productivity; size distribution

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: 1: Wageningen University, Department of Animal Sciences, Fish Culture and Fisheries Group, P. O. Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands, 2: Institute of Freshwater Research, National Board of Fisheries, 7893 Drottningholm, Sweden and 3: Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Department of Zoology, 7034 Trondheim, Norway 4: Netherlands Institute of Ecological Research, Centre for Limnology, Rijksstraatweg 6, 3631 AC Nieuwersluis, The Netherlands,

Publication date: December 1, 2003


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