, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 391-405
Date: 09 May 2006

Relationships between fish feeding guild and trophic structure in English lowland shallow lakes subject to anthropogenic influence: implications for lake restoration

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Abstract

The shallow lakes of Eastern England have been subject to intense anthropogenic pressures including nutrient enrichment and fish stocking. We sought to determine the relationships between fish community structure and other ecosystem characteristics in 28 of these lakes through classification of fish species into piscivorous, zooplanktivorous and benthivorous feeding guilds according to the literature. Canonical correspondence analysis produced clear associations between fish and ecosystem characteristics that generally agreed with other theoretical (e.g. the alternative stable states hypothesis) and empirical studies, but with some important differences. There was a striking lack of relationships between nutrients and other variables, indicating the importance of top-down rather than bottom-up processes as a structuring force in the generally eutrophic study lakes. The presence of submerged (and shoreline) vegetation was associated with a diverse assemblage of apparently co-existing piscivorous (principally pike Esox lucius) and zooplanktivorous species. Perch Perca fluviatilis, a significant predator in other studies, was unimportant and argued to be limited by water quality in the extremely shallow lakes. In contrast, the benthivorous fish guild (principally carp Cyprinus carpio, bream Abramis brama and tench Tinca tinca) essentially represented the inverse of the potential pelagic associations between piscivores/zooplanktivores and vegetation. The introduction of large benthivores to many study lakes could have precipitated a loss of submerged vegetation through direct uprooting during foraging, with the effect of simplifying the fish community being most acute where littoral vegetation was limited by other anthropogenic factors. It is implied that attempts to promote or restore submerged vegetation in these lakes would best target benthivorous species.