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Effect of temporal increases in prey fish abundance on individual growth rates of coastal piscivores
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 40 credits / 60 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Commercial fishing in the Baltic Sea has led to decrease in abundance of large predatory fish and as a result the predation pressure on smaller fish species has been reduced. Three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) is among the species that have benefited from reduced predation pressure. Sticklebacks are a small fish species that spends its juvenile stage in coastal habitat and its adult stage in the open sea with a yearly migration from the sea to coastal habitat and lakes for spawning. Sticklebacks have been shown to have a negative effect on fry of coastal species, such as perch (Perca fluviatilis). Therefore an increase in stickleback abundance, as a consequence of reduced predation pressure, can potentially further reduce abundance of fry of coastal species, such as perch. On the other hand sticklebacks could be subject to predation from adult perch. This two-species interaction is studied in the perspective of general ecological IGP (intra guild predation) theory. In order to determine how the observed increase of three-spined sticklebacks negatively or positively affects the growth of different stages of perch, a time series of operculum bones from perch collected by the coastal monitoring program prior to the increase of sticklebacks and up until present was analyzed. Three areas along the Swedish coast showing increased stickleback abundance (Gaviksfjärden, Norrbyn and Holmön) were compared to areas that had no sticklebacks or only a small increase in abundance (Kinnbäcksfjärden, Råneåfjärden, Långvindsfjärden) prior and after the general increase in stickleback density. In addition to the growth analysis, a dietary analysis of perch was carried out in order to determine to what extent perch utilize sticklebacks as a food source. I found that there were significant differences in regard to perch growth between the two time periods; however there was no significant difference in growth between the control areas and the stickleback areas except for perch of medium size. Further, this difference in growth between the control and stickleback areas was present both before and after the stickleback increase and could therefore not be tied directly to stickleback increase. Consequently, results from a multiple regression showed that stickleback abundance was not able to significantly explain the observed changes in perch growth. The dietary analysis showed that larger and intermediate perch tend to consume sticklebacks as well as benthic fauna and other fish species while smaller perch tended to feed exclusively on smaller invertebrates. This study concluded that the increase in stickleback abundance had only a very weak effect on perch growth.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 29 p.
Keyword [en]
Three-spined stickleback, Perch, Growth, Intraguild Predation, Ontogeny, Baltic Sea.
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-121854OAI: diva2:934719
Educational program
Master's Programme in Ecology
Available from: 2016-06-21 Created: 2016-06-09 Last updated: 2016-06-21Bibliographically approved

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