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Effects of Piscivore-Mediated Habitat Use on Resources, Diet, and Growth of Perch

Sebastian Diehl and Peter Eklöv
Ecology
Vol. 76, No. 6 (Sep., 1995), pp. 1712-1726
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/1940705
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1940705
Page Count: 15
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Effects of Piscivore-Mediated Habitat Use on Resources, Diet, and Growth of Perch
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Abstract

We investigated experimentally how presence or absence of different piscivores influenced habitat use, diet, and individual growth of two size classes of juvenile perch (Perca fluviatilis) and abundances of juvenile perch resources in different habitats. Pond enclosures encompassed 3 x 6 m of dense vegetation and 9 x 6 m of open habitat, and were stocked with 75 young-of-year and 30 1-yr-old perch and with either three piscivorous perch, three northern pike (Esox lucius), or no piscivores. Northern Pike were both larger and possessed a larger gape than piscivorous perch. To isolate behavioral responses of juvenile perch to piscivores, we replaced consumed young-of-year perch. Prey fish mortality was lowest without piscivores and highest with northern pike. Young-of-year perch increased their use of vegetation in the presence of both piscivores, whereas 1-yr-old perch increased their use of vegetation only with northern pike. For both age classes of prey fish, increased use of the vegetation led to reduced individual growth, owing to two complementary mechanisms. First, the physical complexity of submerged macrophytes likely interfered with the benthic feeding of perch. Second, increased use of the (relatively small) vegetated habitat increased the mean density experienced by prey fish. Piscivore-induced changes of prey fish densities in the two habitats had substantial effects on the biomass of prey fish resources in the open habitat, but only minor effects in the vegetation. Sialis lutaria, the major predatory macroinvertebrate (≈ 50% of total macroinvertebrate biomass in the open habitat), and total predatory macroinvertebrates were positively affected by piscivores in the open habitat, but not in the vegetation. Chironomids (<3% of total macroinvertebrate biomass in the vegetation) and the sizes of nonpredatory macroinvertebrates were negatively affected by piscivores in the vegetation, but not in the open habitat. Biomass of nonpredatory macroinvertebrates, Cladocera, and Copepoda did not differ among treatments in either habitat. From our review of field experiments, vulnerable prey fish always change their habitat use in the presence of piscivores. Behaviorally mediated indirect effects of piscivores on individual growth rates and prey fish resources were just as frequently observed as direct effects of piscivores on prey fish survival.

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