Mechanisms of coexistence between native bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) and non-native lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush): inferences from pattern-oriented modeling

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Determining the ecological mechanisms that control population abundances is an important issue for the conservation of endangered and threatened species. We examined whether a threatened bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) population could coexist at observed levels with the ecologically similar introduced species, lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), using a pattern-oriented analysis of population dynamics models. We used a large suite of stage- and age-structured models to examine how both competitive and predatory interactions, combined with differing life-history strategies and species vital rates, drove salmonid coexistence patterns. In our models, an ontogenetic shift in juvenile bull trout resource use was the most important factor contributing to the two species coexistence; however, this coexistence occurred with reduced abundances in bull trout that increase the chances of extirpation for the native species. Observed levels of competition were found to have stronger effects than predation on population abundances. We used a pattern-oriented modeling approach to inference; this approach assumes process models that can generate patterns similar to the observed patterns are better supported than those that cannot. This methodology may find wide use on a number of data-limited fishery management and conservation problems.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Ecology, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA. 2: US Geological Survey, Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA.

Publication date: April 16, 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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