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Erik Jeppesen

Long-term changes in littoral fish community structure and resilience of total catch to re-oligotrophication in a large, peri-alpine European lake

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  • Maike Sabel, University of Konstanz
  • ,
  • Reiner Eckmann, University of Konstanz
  • ,
  • Erik Jeppesen
  • Roland Rösch, Fisheries Research Station Baden-Württemberg
  • ,
  • Dietmar Straile, University of Konstanz

The littoral zone of lakes is used as spawning, shelter, or feeding habitat for many fish species and hence is of key importance for overall lake functioning. Despite this, hardly any studies exist examining the long-term dynamics and response of the littoral fish community, composed mostly of juvenile fish, to environmental change. Here, we study the response of total catch per unit effort (CPUE) and individual species CPUE of such a community to 17 years of oligotrophication and examine whether the species responses can be characterised as synchronous or asynchronous. We analyse a data set of beach seine catches carried out during morning and twilight, late spring and late summer at three sites in large and deep Lake Constance from 1997 to 2014. Generalised additive mixed models were used to explore changes in CPUE of the overall community and of the most frequently occurring species, and Kendall's W test was applied to examine whether the dynamics of fish species were synchronous or asynchronous. Species-specific and total CPUE strongly differed between morning and twilight and between spring and summer indicating an important role of behavioural and life cycle adaptations of species for CPUE. In addition, also the CPUE of some species seeking shelter behind larger stones was lower at sites without these. Total CPUE did not decline suggesting the overall abundance of littoral fish was resilient to declining nutrients. In contrast, fish community composition changed strongly during the study period due to increases in some species (dace, loach, perch) and decreases in others (bream, burbot, chub, ruffe), indicating response diversity of fish to oligotrophication. The type of community dynamics was scale-dependent, whereby significantly synchronous dynamics according to Kendall's W were observed when taking seasonal variability into account. In contrast, significantly asynchronous species dynamics were observed when only the low-frequency variability of species dynamics was considered separately for spring and summer time series. Resilience of littoral fish total CPUE to oligotrophication might have important consequences for ecosystem dynamics and ecosystem services beyond the littoral zone. As small fish often impose strong predation pressure on zooplankton, their resilience might sustain a high top-down control on zooplankton resulting in a further reduction of zooplankton biomass. This could contribute to delayed food web responses and reduced growth of fish with oligotrophication.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFreshwater Biology
Volume65
Issue8
Pages (from-to)1325-1336
Number of pages12
ISSN0046-5070
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

    Research areas

  • compensatory dynamics, juvenile fish, Lake Constance, response diversity, synchrony

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