The role of temperature in the population dynamics of smelt Osmerus eperlanus eperlanus m. spirinchus Pallas in Lake Peipsi (Estonia/Russia)
We analysed lake smelt (Osmerus eperlanus eperlanus m. spirinchus Pallas.) population dynamics in relation to water level and temperature in Lake Peipsi, Estonia/Russia, using commercial fishery statistics from 1931 to 2004 (excluding 1940–1945). Over this period, smelt provided the greatest catch of commercial fish although its stock and catches have gradually decreased. At times, catches of smelt were quite variable with a cyclic character. Disappearance of smelt from catches in years 1973–1975 was the result of summer fish kill. Regression analysis revealed a significant negative effect of high temperature on the abundance of smelt stock, while the effect of water level was not significant. Our results suggest that critical factors for the smelt population are the absolute value of water temperature in the hottest period (≥20°C) of summer and the duration of this period. These weather parameters have increased in synchrony with smelt decline during the last 7 decades. There appeared to be a significant negative effect of hot summers on the abundance of smelt operating with a lag of one and 2 years, which can be explained by the short life cycle (mainly 1–2 years) of this species.