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The importance of ice cover for energy turnover in juvenile Atlantic salmon

The journal of animal ecology 2004 v.73 no.5 pp. 959-966
Salmo salar, animal growth, climate change, food consumption, ice, juveniles, metabolism, mortality, overwintering, photoperiod, resting metabolic rate, salmon, stream channels
1 Under benign laboratory tank conditions we compared food consumption and metabolism of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) juveniles exposed to simulated ice cover (darkness) with fish in natural short, 6 h light, day length (without ice). Three different populations along an ice‐cover gradient were tested (59°N−70°N). 2 Resting metabolism was on average 30% lower under simulated ice cover (6·6 J g−1 day−1) than under natural day length (9·4 J g−1 day−1), and the response was similar for all populations. Northern salmon grew equally well in dark and light conditions, whereas the southern grew significantly poorer in the dark. Fish from all populations fed more under natural day length than in the dark and the northern population had higher consumption than the southern. The relative high growth of fish from the northern population in the dark compared to the southern populations was due partly to higher consumption and partly to higher growth efficiency. Fish from the southern populations had negative growth efficiency in the dark. 3 We also studied the importance of ice cover under more hostile conditions in stream channels using the northern population only. Juveniles held in channels with simulated ice cover lost less energy (20 J g−1 day−1) than those held in channels with transparent cover (26 J g−1 day−1). This difference in energy loss was due partly (50%) to higher food consumption under simulated ice (4·5 and 1·6 J g−1, respectively) and partly (30%) to light‐induced differences in resting metabolic rate. 4 In conclusion, both experiments showed lower metabolic costs in darkness under simulated ice cover than without ice. Under benign laboratory conditions the response to light (ice cover) varied among populations and only the northern population were able to attain positive growth in the dark. Under semi‐natural conditions the lack of ice cover induced strong negative effects on the energy budget. Because energetic deficiencies are assumed to be an important cause of winter mortality, our study indicates that ice break‐ups or removal following climatic change may affect winter survival significantly, particularly in northern populations.