Biological Invasions

, Volume 15, Issue 8, pp 1695–1711 | Cite as

Fifty years later: trophic ecology and niche overlap of a native and non-indigenous fish species in the western basin of Lake Erie

  • Matthew M. Guzzo
  • G. Douglas Haffner
  • Nicholas D. Legler
  • Scott A. Rush
  • Aaron T. FiskEmail author
Original Paper


Since the introduction of white perch (Morone americana) into Lake Erie over 50 years ago, the population size of native yellow perch (Perca flavescens) has decreased up to 79 % and significant changes to the ecosystem have occurred. We examined long-term population estimates and used stable isotopes of carbon (δ 13C) and nitrogen (δ 15N) paired with stomach content analysis to quantify the trophic ecology and niche overlap of adult yellow perch and white perch in the western basin of Lake Erie. We found that changes in yellow perch abundance since 1979 appeared to be better correlated with changes in fishery exploitation rates than with food competition effects from white perch. At the time of this study, yellow perch were found to have higher δ 13C values, indicating greater utilization of benthic food resources than white perch, and white perch occupied higher trophic positions based on δ 15N. The diets of both species varied spatially and seasonally based on stable isotopes and stomach contents, likely driven by changes in prey abundance. Comparison of niche widths using stable isotope population metrics and Schoener diet similarity index suggested a low to moderate degree of niche overlap between species. Isotopic niches of white perch were generally larger than those of yellow perch demonstrating broader resource utilization by this non-indigenous species. We submit that isotopic niche overlap comparisons are more appropriate for studies seeking to understand interactions among populations over course temporal scales, while diet overlap indices, such as the Schoener index provide a means to study fine-scale interactions such as ontogenetic and seasonal diet shifts.


Yellow perch White perch Stomach content analysis Diet Stable isotopes Laurentian Great Lakes Niche width Food web Population metrics 



The authors would like to thank Sandra Ellis, Anna Hussey, Eric Primeau, Mary-Lynn Mailloux, Carly Ziter and Kristen Diemer for their assistance in the laboratory. Craig MacDonald, Andy Cook and the staff at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Lake Erie Management Unit, Vicki Lee, Jeremy Hatt, Willi Powell and many additional personnel with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Jeff Tyson, Eric Weimer and the staff at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Sandusky Fish Research Unit for their help in sample collection. Richard Kraus and the staff at the USGS Lake Erie Biological Station for providing diet data. Andrew Chapelsky for his help with data processing. We would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful insights and recommendations. This work was funded by Canada Research Chair funds awarded to A. T. Fisk and G. D. Haffner, The Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada for funding to Dan Heath and Stuart Ludsin, and graduate assistantships awarded to M.M.G. and N.D.L. from the University of Windsor.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew M. Guzzo
    • 1
    • 2
  • G. Douglas Haffner
    • 1
  • Nicholas D. Legler
    • 1
    • 3
  • Scott A. Rush
    • 1
    • 4
  • Aaron T. Fisk
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Great Lakes Institute for Environmental ResearchUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  3. 3.Bureau of Fisheries ManagementWisconsin Department of Natural ResourcesSturgeon BayUSA
  4. 4.Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and AquacultureMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA

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