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Assessment of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Controls on the Collapse of Alewives (Alosa pseudoharengus) in Lake Huron

Abstract

Food web models are powerful tools to inform management of lake ecosystems, where top-down (predation) and bottom-up (resource) controls likely propagate through multiple trophic levels because of strong predator–prey links. We used the Ecopath with Ecosim modeling approach to assess these controls on the Lake Huron main basin food web and the 2003 collapse of an invasive pelagic prey fish, alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus). We parameterized two Ecopath models to characterize food web changes occurring between two study periods of 1981–1985 and 1998–2002. We also built an Ecosim model and simulated food web time-dynamics under scenarios representing different levels of top-down control by Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and of bottom-up control by quagga mussels (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis) and nutrients. Ecopath results showed an increase in the relative importance of bottom-up controls between the two periods, as production decreased across all trophic levels. The production of non-dreissenid benthos decreased most, which could cause decreases in production of pelagic prey fishes feeding on them. Ecosim simulation results indicated that the alewife collapse was caused by a combination of top-down and bottom-up controls. Results showed that while controls by Chinook salmon were relatively constant before alewife collapse, controls by quagga mussels and nutrients increased jointly to unsustainable levels. Under current conditions of low nutrients and high quagga mussel biomass, simulation results showed that recovery of alewives is unlikely regardless of Chinook salmon biomass in Lake Huron, which implies that the shrinking prey base cannot support the same level of salmonine predators as that prevailed during the 1980s.

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Acknowledgements

We are thankful to Adam Cottrill, Jixiang He, Thomas Nalepa, Stephen Riley, Jeffrey Schaeffer, and Zhenming Su for providing data and helping with data issues. We are also thankful to Jason Breck and Hongyan Zhang for programming and EwE modeling support. James Diana, Charles Madenjian, Earl Werner, Michael Wiley, David “Bo” Bunnell, and Randall Claramunt provided suggestions to an early draft of this article. This research was funded by award number DW-13-92359501 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and award numbers GL-00E00604-0 and NA10NOS4780218 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research. This manuscript is NOAA GLERL Contribution No. 1801.

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Correspondence to Yu-Chun Kao.

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All authors together designed the study, performed the research, and wrote the paper; YCK and SAA analyzed data.

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Kao, YC., Adlerstein, S.A. & Rutherford, E.S. Assessment of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Controls on the Collapse of Alewives (Alosa pseudoharengus) in Lake Huron. Ecosystems 19, 803–831 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-016-9969-y

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Keywords

  • lake ecosystems
  • food web
  • Ecopath with Ecosim
  • top-down control
  • bottom-up control
  • recreational fisheries
  • lake Huron