Fish population responses to climate change : Causes and consequences

Sammanfattning: Lake environments are heterogeneous, and animals show a variety of adaptations to deal with this heterogeneity. Fish often show intraspecific variation in diet, metabolism, and behavior, corresponding to their habitat use. Studies on climate change often ignore this heterogeneity and its importance in determining population-level responses to climate change. This thesis can be broken into two interacting pieces. First, my goal was to assess how water color and temperature changes impact the size, number, and distribution of a common predator, Eurasian perch (Perca fluviatilis), in Swedish lakes. Second, I aimed to examine whether metabolism and resource use differed between lake habitats, corresponding with documented patterns of polymorphism and whether diet differences were maintained along a thermal and water color gradient. By combining the information gleaned from these studies, the overarching goal of my thesis is to better understand how climate change will impact fish populations and how intraspecific variance in these responses will impact ecosystem functioning. I found that warming and browning will likely decrease fish biomass but via different mechanisms. Warming reduces average fish size through its impact on metabolism and energy requirements. Browning decreases fish abundance likely due to its negative effects on resource abundance, increasing mortality, and decreasing reproductive effort. Though warming decreases biomass at the lake level, pelagic perch abundance increases. I found that these pelagic perch have higher metabolic rates and, especially in darker lakes, rely heavily on pelagic resources. As more fish shift into the pelagic habitat, this will increase top-down pressure on pelagic resources and decrease energy transfer from littoral to pelagic habitats altering energy flow within lakes. Variation in metabolic phenotype across habitats, combined with the positive scaling of metabolic rates with temperature, will likely determine which fish can persist under climate change scenarios. Studies that measure this variation rely heavily on respirometry to measure fish metabolism. I found that current respirometry methods underestimate maximum metabolic rate and suggest an updated method to improve the accuracy of future studies. Overall, I conclude that habitats should be examined separately to better understand population-level responses to climate change. Perch caught in different habitats have different energy requirements and respond differently to warming and browning. These differences will affect the distribution of top-down pressure and habitat coupling within lake ecosystems, with implications for broader ecosystem functioning in the future. 

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