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Foraging and predation risk for larval cisco (Coregonus artedi) in Lake Superior: a modelling synthesis of empirical survey data

October 8, 2014

The relative importance of predation and food availability as contributors to larval cisco (Coregonus artedi) mortality in Lake Superior were investigated using a visual foraging model to evaluate potential predation pressure by rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) and a bioenergetic model to evaluate potential starvation risk. The models were informed by observations of rainbow smelt, larval cisco, and zooplankton abundance at three Lake Superior locations during the period of spring larval cisco emergence and surface-oriented foraging. Predation risk was highest at Black Bay, ON, where average rainbow smelt densities in the uppermost 10 m of the water column were >1000 ha−1. Turbid conditions at the Twin Ports, WI-MN, affected larval cisco predation risk because rainbow smelt remained suspended in the upper water column during daylight, placing them alongside larval cisco during both day and night hours. Predation risk was low at Cornucopia, WI, owing to low smelt densities (<400 ha−1) and deep light penetration, which kept rainbow smelt near the lakebed and far from larvae during daylight. In situ zooplankton density estimates were low compared to the values used to develop the larval coregonid bioenergetics model, leading to predictions of negative growth rates for 10 mm larvae at all three locations. The model predicted that 15 mm larvae were capable of attaining positive growth at Cornucopia and the Twin Ports where low water temperatures (2–6 °C) decreased their metabolic costs. Larval prey resources were highest at Black Bay but warmer water temperatures there offset the benefit of increased prey availability. A sensitivity analysis performed on the rainbow smelt visual foraging model showed that it was relatively insensitive, while the coregonid bioenergetics model showed that the absolute growth rate predictions were highly sensitive to input parameters (i.e., 20% parameter perturbation led to order of magnitude differences in model estimates). Our modelling indicated that rainbow smelt predation may limit larval cisco survival at Black Bay and to a lesser extent at Twin Ports, and that starvation may be a major source of mortality at all three locations. The framework we describe has the potential to further our understanding of the relative importance of starvation and predation on larval fish survivorship, provided information on prey resources available to larvae are measured at sufficiently fine spatial scales and the models provide a realistic depiction of the dynamic processes that the larvae experience.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2014
Title Foraging and predation risk for larval cisco (Coregonus artedi) in Lake Superior: a modelling synthesis of empirical survey data
DOI 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2014.09.009
Authors Jared T. Myers, Daniel L. Yule, Michael L. Jones, Henry R. Quinlan, Eric K. Berglund
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecological Modelling
Index ID 70126414
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Great Lakes Science Center