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Diversity in spawning habitat use among Great Lakes Cisco populations

September 30, 2022

Cisco (Coregonus artedi) once dominated fish communities in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Restoring the abundance and distribution of this species has emerged as a management priority, yet our understanding of Cisco spawning habitat use is insufficient to characterise habitat needs for these populations and assess whether availability of suitable spawning habitat could be a constraint to recovery. We characterised the distribution of incubating Cisco eggs in situ across gradients of depth and substrate types to describe the spawning habitat used by three Great Lakes populations. In Chaumont Bay, Lake Ontario, eggs were concentrated on shallow bedrock shoals and not found on deeper silt or sand substrate. In contrast, eggs in Thunder Bay, Lake Superior, and Elk Rapids, Lake Michigan, were found on deeper fine grain sediments with low utilisation of shallow rocky and cobble habitats. These patterns of egg incubation habitat use suggest a broad spawning habitat niche at the species level but distinct spawning habitat preferences at the population level. While our results indicate some historical diversity in spawning habitat use has been maintained across the species’ range in the Great Lakes, comparisons of contemporary spawning habitat utilisation against historical accounts raise questions as to whether some spawning habitat use behaviours may no longer be prevalent within specific lakes. Thus, characterising the portfolio of spawning strategies remaining within lakes may improve our understanding of habitat needs and identify opportunities to maintain population diversity while supporting Cisco rehabilitation.

Publication Year 2022
Title Diversity in spawning habitat use among Great Lakes Cisco populations
DOI 10.1111/eff.12637
Authors Matthew R. Paufve, Suresh Sethi, Brian C. Weidel, Brian F. Lantry, Daniel Yule, Lars G. Rudstam, Jory L. Jonas, Eric K. Berglund, Michael J. Connerton, Dimitry Gorsky, Matthew Herbert, Jason Smith
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology of Freshwater Fish
Index ID 70240489
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Leetown