Habitat selection and indirect interactions in fish communities : mechanisms to explain spatial distribution of perch, roach, and vendace

Sammanfattning: To increase the understanding of freshwater lake ecosystems, I have studied the habitat selection of perch (Perca fluviatilis L.), roach (Rutilus rutilus (L.)), and vendace (Coregonus albula (L.)). These fish species use the pelagic and the littoral-benthic habitats in lakes to different extents. Perch and roach are omnivorous, and perch become piscivorous at larger sizes. Vendace is a pelagic species specialized in eating zooplankton. Vendace was expected to affect biotic interactions and habitat use of roach and perch, both directly and indirectly. I used monitoring data to examine how species distribution patterns, as well as population structures, depended on species composition. In a predation experiment, I studied the relative predation sensitivity as well as evasive behaviours of roach and vendace, with piscivorous perch used as predators. In foraging experiments in aquaria, I studied foraging efficiencies and swimming performances of roach and vendace eating zooplankton in different temperature and light treatments. I then applied metabolic models for roach and vendace, respectively, to compare their net energy gain in different abiotic conditions. Roach used the pelagic habitat less, and the biomass of roach was lower in lakes with vendace. Results did not support the prediction that perch populations would benefit from the presence of vendace. However, results indicated that a release of competition for small perch may be mediated by vendace, through changed habitat use of roach, increasing the possibilities for predation. Roach and vendace were similar in their sensitivity to predation, indicating that energy gain can explain their habitat use. Foraging efficiencies did not explain the habitat use of roach and vendace in the field. However, the net energy gain in different abiotic conditions, could explain observed patterns of their habitat use in lakes. This thesis shows how the trade-off between mortality and net energy gain is manifested in habitat use. Including habitat selection in ecological studies may increase our understanding of biotic interactions. Metabolic costs as well as foraging abilities in different abiotic conditions are important for explaining the habitat use of species. Such knowledge can make it possible to forecast how interacting fish species may be affected by environmental change.

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