Timing of predation by rainbow trout controls Daphnia demography and the trophic status of a Minnesota lake

  • Membre L
  • Megard R
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1. Stocking of lakes with rainbow trout is a common practice that presents a potential conflict for lake managers who must balance the interests of anglers with those concerned that zooplanktivory by trout may trigger a trophic cascade and result in decreased water clarity. 2. This study examined how the timing of trout stocking (autumn versus spring) in a Minnesota (U.S.A.) lake affected (i) the population dynamics of their zooplankton food supply (Daphnia pulicaria), (ii) phytoplankton biomass and water clarity and (iii) trout survival. Sizes of both Daphnia and trout populations were estimated acoustically with high-frequency (192 kHz) sonar. 3. Daphnia were nearly eliminated from the lake during winters after trout were stocked in autumn. In both of these years (1996 and 1997), the Daphnia population was small in the spring, and grew during the summer and into the autumn as the trout population diminished. 4. The lake was then stocked in spring for 2 years (1998 and 1999). This fisheries manipulation alleviated predation over the winter, but increased predation on D. pulicaria during the spring, summer and autumn. However, the high mortality caused by the spring-stocked trout was offset by even higher rates of reproduction by the relatively large populations of fecund Daphnia that survived the winter in 1998 and 1999. 5. Grazing by these dense populations of Daphnia produced clear-water phases during May and June that were inhibited in autumn stocking years. In addition, the large Daphnia populations present during the spring and early summer of 1998 and 1999 provided abundant forage for trout. 6. This fisheries manipulation achieved seemingly mutually exclusive management objectives: a robust planktivorous sport fishery, and clear water for other forms of recreation.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Acoustic sampling
  • Daphnia
  • Fisheries management
  • Trophic cascade
  • Water quality

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  • Leif K. Membre

  • Robert O. Megard

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