Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Erik Jeppesen

Short-and long term niche segregation and individual specialization of brown trout (Salmo trutta) in species poor Faroese lakes

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Trophic niche divergence is considered to be a major process by which species coexistence is facilitated. When studying niche segregation in lake ecosystems, we tend to view the niche on a one-dimensional pelagic-littoral axis. In reality, however, the niche use may be more complex and individual fidelity to a niche may be variable both between and within populations. In order to study this complexity, relative simple systems with few species are needed. In this paper, we study how competitor presence affects the resource use of brown trout (Salmo trutta) in 11 species-poor Faroese lakes by comparing relative abundance, stable isotope ratios and diet in multiple habitats. In the presence of three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus), a higher proportion of the trout population was found in the pelagic habitat, and trout in general relied on a more pelagic diet base as compared to trout living in allopatry or in sympatry with Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus). Diet analyses revealed, however, that niche-segregation may be more complex than described on a one-dimensional pelagic-littoral axis. Trout from both littoral and offshore benthic habitats had in the presence of sticklebacks a less benthic diet as compared to trout living in allopatry or in sympatry with charr. Furthermore, we found individual habitat specialization between littoral/benthic and pelagic trout in deep lakes. Hence, our findings indicate that for trout populations interspecific competition can drive shifts in both habitat and niche use, but at the same time they illustrate the complexity of the ecological niche in freshwater ecosystems.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Biology of Fishes
Pages (from-to)305-318
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2012

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