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Yellowstone Lake ecosystem restoration: A case study for invasive fish management

June 12, 2020

Invasive predatory lake trout Salvelinus namaycush were discovered in Yellowstone Lake in 1994 and caused a precipitous decrease in abundance of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri. Suppression efforts (primarily gillnetting) initiated in 1995 did not curtail lake trout population growth or lakewide expansion. An adaptive management strategy was developed in 2010 that specified desired conditions indicative of ecosystem recovery. Population modeling was used to estimate effects of suppression efforts on the lake trout and establish effort benchmarks to achieve negative population growth (λ < 1). Partnerships enhanced funding support, and a scientific review panel provided guidance to increase suppression gillnetting effort to >46,800 100-m net nights; this effort level was achieved in 2012 and led to a reduction in lake trout biomass. Total lake trout biomass declined from 432,017 kg in 2012 to 196,675 kg in 2019, primarily because of a 79% reduction in adults. Total abundance declined from 925,208 in 2012 to 673,983 in 2019 but was highly variable because of recruitment of age-2 fish. Overall, 3.35 million lake trout were killed by suppression efforts from 1995 to 2019. Cutthroat trout abundance remained below target levels, but relative condition increased, large individuals (> 400 mm) became more abundant, and individual weights doubled, probably because of reduced density. Continued actions to suppress lake trout will facilitate further recovery of the cutthroat trout population and integrity of the Yellowstone Lake ecosystem.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Yellowstone Lake ecosystem restoration: A case study for invasive fish management
DOI 10.3390/fishes5020018
Authors Todd M. Koel, Jeffrey L. Arnold, Patricia E. Bigelow, Travis O. Brenden, Jeffery D. Davis, Colleen R. Detjens, Philip D. Doepke, Brian D. Ertel, Hayley C. Glassic, Robert E. Gresswell, Christopher S Guy, Drew J. MacDonald, Michael E. Ruhl, Todd J. Stuth, David P. Sweet, John M. Syslo, Nathan A. Thomas, Lusha M. Tronstad, Patrick J. White, Alexander V. Zale
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Fishes
Series Number
Index ID 70229341
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle