Changes in the fish community and water quality during seven years of stocking piscivorous fish in a shallow lake

Christian Skov, M.R. Perrow, Søren Berg, H. Skovgaard

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1. Piscivores (annual stocking of 1000 individuals ha(-1) of 0+ pike and a single stocking of 30 kg ha(-1) of large 20-30 cm perch) were stocked in seven consecutive years in a shallow eutrophic lake in Denmark. The stocking programme aimed at changing food-web structure by reducing zooplanktivorous and benthivorous fish, with resultant effects on lower trophic levels and ultimately water quality. 2. The fish community and water quality parameters (Secchi depth, concentrations of total phosphorus, chlorophyll a and suspended solids) were monitored between 1996 and 2000 and relationships were evaluated between predatory fish and potential prey and between zooplanktivorous or benthivorous fish and water quality parameters. In addition, potential consumption of piscivorous fishes was calculated. 3. The density of fish feeding on larger zooplankton or benthos (roach >15 cm, crucian carp >15 cm) declined distinctly during the study period. This effect was attributed to predation by large (>50 cm) pike. Based on scale readings, we cautiously suggest that the stocking of 0+ pike boosted the adult pike population to produce an unexpected impact in later years. Conversely, no direct impact of stocked 0+ pike was detected on 0+ roach. 4. A major decline in the recruitment strength of 0+ roach was observed in 2000. A combination of (i) the indirect effect of large pike preying on adult roach, with negative effect on roach reproduction and (ii) the direct predation effect of 0+ pike and or 1+ and 2+ perch recruited in the lake, provides the most likely explanation of this phenomenon. 5. A marked increase in Secchi depth in 2000 and declining trends in suspended solids, chlorophyll-a and total phosphorus concentrations were observed. These changes may also be attributable to changes in the fish community, although the relationships were not straightforward. 6. This 7-year study indicates that piscivorous fish may be a significant structuring force in shallow eutrophic lakes, suggesting that stocking piscivores can increase predation pressure on cyprinids. However, the general lack of impact of 0+ pike points to the need of refining current stocking practices in several countries across Europe
Original languageEnglish
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)2388-2400
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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