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Diet and trophic niche space and overlap of Lake Ontario salmonid species using stable isotopes and stomach contents

Mumby, James A., Larocque, Sarah M., Johnson, Timothy B., Stewart, Thomas J., Fitzsimons, John D., Weidel, Brian C., Walsh, Maureen G., Lantry, Jana R., Yuille, Michael J., Fisk, Aaron T.
Journal of Great Lakes research 2018 v.44 no.6 pp. 1383-1392
Alosa pseudoharengus, Neogobius melanostomus, Oncorhynchus kisutch, Oncorhynchus mykiss, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, Salmo salar, Salmo trutta, Salvelinus namaycush, adults, carbon, food webs, foraging, invasive species, lakes, niches, nitrogen, plasticity, stable isotopes, stomach, trout, Lake Ontario
Lake Ontario supports a diversity of native and non-native salmonids which are managed largely through stocking practices. Ecological changes (e.g., invasive species) altering the food web structure accompanied with shifts in prey abundance, necessitate understanding the trophic niches of Lake Ontario salmonids to aid in management. The objectives of this study were to quantify salmonid (5 species) trophic niches and dietary proportions using stable isotope ratios (δ13C and δ15N) of a large sample set (adult fish (>300 mm; n = 672) and key offshore prey (5 species, n = 2037)) collected across Lake Ontario in 2013. Estimates of prey based on stable isotope ratios were similar to stomach contents. Based on stable isotope ratios, non-native prey dominated salmonid diet; in particular alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) constituted the majority (0.31 to 0.93) of all salmonid diets, and round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) contributed 0.26 and 0.19 of brown trout (Salmo trutta) and lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) diets, respectively. Trophic niche overlap was high between all salmonids, except lake trout. The largest trophic niche overlap occurred between Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch), and Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), and their reliance on alewife infers a strong pelagic foraging strategy. Lake, brown and rainbow (Oncorhynchus mykiss) trout had larger and/or more distinct trophic niches indicative of a more variable diet across individuals and utilizing different foraging strategies and/or habitats. Overall, Lake Ontario salmonids maintained a high reliance on alewife, and their potential for plasticity in diet provides important information to management regarding population sustainability.