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Diet partitioning in sympatric Atlantic salmon and brown trout in streams with contrasting riparian vegetation

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Prey intake by Atlantic salmon Salmo salar and brown trout Salmo trutta was measured across different riparian vegetation types: grassland, open canopy deciduous and closed canopy deciduous, in upland streams in County Mayo, Western Ireland. Fishes were collected by electrofishing while invertebrates were sampled from the benthos using a Surber sampler and drifting invertebrates collected in drift traps. Aquatic invertebrates dominated prey numbers in the diets of 0+ year Atlantic salmon and brown trout and 1+ year Atlantic salmon, whereas terrestrial invertebrates were of greater importance for diets of 1+ and 2+ year brown trout. Terrestrial prey biomass was generally greater than aquatic prey for 1+ and 2+ year brown trout across seasons and riparian types. Prey intake was greatest in spring and summer and least in autumn apart from 2+ year brown trout that sustained feeding into autumn. Total prey numbers captured tended to be greater for all age classes in streams with deciduous riparian canopy. Atlantic salmon consumed more aquatic prey and brown trout more terrestrial prey with an ontogenetic increase in prey species richness and diversity. Atlantic salmon and brown trout diets were most similar in summer. Terrestrial invertebrates provided an important energy subsidy particularly for brown trout. In grassland streams, each fish age class was strongly associated with aquatic, mainly benthic invertebrates. In streams with deciduous riparian canopy cover, diet composition partitioned between conspecifics with older brown trout associated with surface drifting terrestrial invertebrates and older Atlantic salmon associated with aquatic invertebrates with a high drift propensity in the water column and 0+ year fish feeding on benthic aquatic invertebrates. Deciduous riparian canopy cover may therefore facilitate vertical partitioning of feeding position within the water column between sympatric Atlantic salmon and brown trout. Implications for riparian management are discussed.
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Keywords: aquatic; diet partitioning; riparian vegetation; sympatric salmon and trout; terrestrial

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Department of Zoology, Ecology and Plant Sciences, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

Publication date: 2007-07-01

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