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Rapid and unexpected effects of piscivore introduction on trophic position and diet of perch (Perca flavescens) in lakes recovering from acidification and metal contamination
- LUEK, ANDREAS, MORGAN, GEORGE E., WISSEL, BJÖRN, GUNN, JOHN M., RAMCHARAN, CHARLES W.
- Freshwater biology 2010 v.55 no.8 pp. 1616-1627
- Micropterus dolomieu, Perca flavescens, acidification, bass, benthic organisms, carbon, diet, food webs, foods, habitats, isotopes, lakes, littoral zone, macroinvertebrates, perch, zooplankton
- 1. Yellow perch (Perca flavescens) are often the only surviving fish species in acidified lakes. We studied four lakes along a gradient of recovery from acidification and that had different food web complexities. All had abundant yellow perch, two had low piscivore abundance, one had a well-established piscivore population and one was manipulated by introducing piscivorous smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu). We hypothesised that there would be strong effects on perch abundance, behaviour and diet induced by the presence of piscivores. 2. In the manipulated lake, the bass reduced yellow perch abundance by 75% over a 2-year period. Concomitantly, perch use of the pelagic habitat fell from 48 to 40%. 3. In contrast to findings from less disturbed systems, yellow perch in the littoral zone of the manipulated lake did not strongly shift from zooplankton to benthic food sources after the arrival of piscivores. Diet analysis using stable carbon isotopes revealed a strong continued reliance on zooplankton in all lakes, independent of the degree of piscivory. The failure to switch to benthos in the refuge area of the littoral zone is most likely related to the depauperate benthos communities in these formerly acidified lakes. 4. Yellow perch in lakes recovering from acidification face a considerable ecological challenge as the necessary switch to benthic diet is hindered by a low abundance of benthos. The arrival of piscivores in these recovering lakes imposes further restrictions on perch access to food items. We infer that future recovery of perch populations (and higher trophic levels) will have to be preceded by the re-establishment of diverse benthic macroinvertebrate communities in these lakes.