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Modelling the effects of habitat on self-thinning, energy equivalence, and optimal habitat structure for juvenile trout

Rosenfeld, Jordan S.
Canadian journal of fisheries and aquatic sciences 2014 v.71 no.9 pp. 1395-1406
Salmonidae, allometry, energy, habitats, invertebrates, juveniles, models, mortality, swimming, sympatry, trout
Self-thinning theory predicts that decline in density with increasing individual mass should match the exponent of the metabolism–body mass relationship (∼0.9 in salmonids). However, self-thinning assumes energy equivalence (constant energy available to a cohort as it ages), which may be unrealistic for mobile taxa. I evaluate this assumption using a bioenergetic–stream habitat model to assess the sensitivity of available energy and self-thinning slopes to changes in habitat structure (percent pool). Self-thinning slopes across three age-classes of juvenile trout (young of the year, 1+, and 2+) were sensitive to both modelled habitat structure and density-independent mortality rates. Density-independent overwinter mortality generated self-thinning curves similar to those expected from metabolic allometry, even without habitat limitation (density-dependent mortality). Energy available to sympatric cohorts was unequal under most habitat configurations because of size-based differences in swimming performance that affected habitat availability and interference competition (dominance) that allowed resource monopolization by older cohorts. The optimal habitat structure that maximized abundance of the 2+ age-class (and best approximated energy equivalence) was ∼40% pool, but this value was sensitive to density-independent mortality rate and assumptions about the effect of the pool to riffle ratio on invertebrate prey production.