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Heterogeneity in food-web interactions of fish in the Mwanza Gulf, Lake Victoria: a quantitative stable isotope study

Cornelissen, Ilse J. M., Vijverberg, J., van den Beld, A. M., Helmsing, N. R., Verreth, J. A. J., Nagelkerke, L. A. J.
Hydrobiologia 2018 v.805 no.1 pp. 113-130
Lates niloticus, carbon, environmental factors, fish, fish communities, invertebrates, omnivores, primary productivity, stable isotopes, stomach, trophic levels, wet season, Lake Victoria, Tanzania
Stable isotope analyses and derived population-level metrics were used to quantitatively analyse spatial and seasonal heterogeneity in the fish trophic dynamics in relation to environmental variables in Mwanza Gulf, Lake Victoria (Tanzania). The fish community in Lake Victoria, including the top predator Nile perch, is generally omnivorous with a heavy reliance on invertebrates. This is in contrast to findings based on stomach content analyses of Nile perch, which showed a stronger reliance on fish. We tested two hypotheses: (1) during the rainy seasons multiple carbon sources influence the food-web structure inside the Gulf, leading to increased carbon ranges and trophic diversity. (2) During dry periods, the food-web structure mainly relies on pelagic primary production, reducing carbon ranges and trophic diversity. Carbon sources indeed varied seasonally and spatially, affecting the fish community at the highest trophic levels. With the onset of rains, carbon sources became spatially highly differentiated with enriched δ¹³C values of fish in shallow water inside the Gulf and depleted δ¹³C values in open waters. Metrics associated with niche size correlated significantly with seasonally varying environmental variables, while δ¹³C ranges correlated with spatially varying environmental variables.