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Density Compensation in Umbra‐Perca Fish Assemblages of Northern Wisconsin Lakes

Tonn, William M.
Ecology 1985 v.66 no.2 pp. 415-429
Perca flavescens, Umbra limi, community structure, field experimentation, lakes, mortality, oxygen, pH, perch, predation, seasonal variation, seepage, species diversity, Wisconsin
Small, shallow seepage lakes in northern Wisconsin that have both low winter oxygen concentrations and low pH possess depauperate fish assemblages containing primarily or exclusively central mudminnows, Umbra limi, and yellow perch, perca flavescens. Six times during three years I determined the total densities of fish in five lakes by mark—recapture and catch—per—effort methods. The richness of the fish assemblages in these lakes varied from one to three species in a nested pattern. While seasonal variations in density occurred within and among lakes due to variations of growth, mortality, and recruitment, total densities overall were independent of species richness. the pattern, called complete density compensation, suggests that total densities are expressions of the lakes' similar abilities to support fish and that the species interact rather than being independent. An intense negative correlation between perch and mudminnow densities was found, suggesting a strong interspecific population dominance of perch over mudminnows. There was also indirect evidence that both competition (exploitation and interference) and predation by perch regulate mudminnow populations when the species co—occur. Because these assemblages were unpredictably variable in time and space, conclusions from single censuses would have been unreliable. An exercise simulating single seasonal censuses from each richness class showed that less than one—half of such single censuses would have produced the pattern of complete compensation that was observed in the field study. In general, my results support the idea that the relative importance of the factors that determine community structure, or even the factors themselves, can differ not only from assemblage to assemblage at any one time, but even from season to season or year to year within a single assemblage.