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Complex littoral habitat influences the response of native minnows to stocked trout: evidence from whole-lake comparisons and experimental predator enclosures

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Strong negative effects of introduced predatory fishes on native species are frequently reported but may not be universal. Recent research from productive lakes, for example, has documented few serious negative effects. Our objective was to determine how complex littoral habitat mediates the response of adult and young-of-year (YOY) native dace (Chrosomus spp.) and fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) to the introduction of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in productive lakes in Alberta, Canada. We first quantified inshore–offshore habitat use of native fish in stocked and unstocked lakes with heavily vegetated littoral zones. We then manipulated the presence or absence of trout and densities of macrophytes within enclosures in an unstocked lake and assessed the behavioral response of native fish. Our whole-lake comparisons revealed that adult and YOY fishes occurred in vegetated inshore areas to a greater extent in stocked relative to unstocked lakes. In the enclosure experiment, native fishes did not respond to the introduction of trout at natural macrophyte densities, but dace significantly reduced their occupation of enclosures with reduced macrophytes once trout were added. Our results suggest that complex littoral macrophyte beds provide important refuge habitat for native fishes, which can potentially mitigate negative effects associated with introductions of a piscivorous predator.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Alberta, Department of Biological Sciences, Biological Sciences Building CW 405, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E9, Canada. 2: Parks Canada, #1550, 635 8 Avenue S.W, Calgary, AB T2P 3M3, Canada; University of Alberta, Department of Biological Sciences, Biological Sciences Building CW 405, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E9, Canada.

Publication date: February 7, 2012

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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