, Volume 757, Issue 1, pp 49–60 | Cite as

Historic decline and recent increase of Burbot (Lota lota) in the Netherlands

  • J. BosveldEmail author
  • J. Kranenbarg
  • H. J. R. Lenders
  • A. J. Hendriks


In the Netherlands, Burbot Lota lota have severely declined due to aquatic system modifications and agricultural intensification. The aim of this study was to evaluate the species’ distribution and population trends and to interpret its decline for conservation and management-planning. Historic and present distributions were examined by GIS analysis, while the decline was quantified using binary logistic regression of presence-absence data. Records suggest that at the beginning of the twentieth century the overall Burbot population was relatively stable but reached a turning point from a positive to a negative population phase around 1950. Today, only two areas with spawning populations remain. Recently, increasing numbers of Burbot have been recorded in one of these areas, viz. the lakes in the confluence area of the rivers Vechte and IJssel. This increase could be attributed to annual stockings in German reaches of the River Vechte since 2001, with stock material originating from the rivers Elbe and Weser. Because of the low numbers in which Burbot populations were present and the risks of introduction of non-local stock, Burbot requires imperative tools and action plans for recovery and conservation in the Netherlands.


River Vechte River IJssel Population dynamics Species decline Historical data Fish conservation 



We would like to thank Wieke Smit for the hospitality during field visits and for providing us with Burbot data over the past six years. We are grateful to Jens Liebermann of Sportfischereiverein Nordhorn e.V. for information on the reintroduction of Burbot in Germany. Many thanks to Ronald de Ruiter (Naturalis Biodiversity Center, The Netherlands) for his kind assistance during visits to the natural history collection of preserved Burbot specimens; the staff of IMARES and the Royal Dutch Angling Association for providing monitoring and catch data of Burbot, respectively. Finally, we would like to thank Dr. Tom Worthington (Oklahoma State University, US) for his help and valuable feedback; Marc Cooper (Doctoral candidate, Leiden University, The Netherlands) and Jan Kranenbarg Sr. (Kraantekst, The Netherlands) for editing the manuscript for its English language usage.


  1. Bosveld, J., J. Kranenbarg & H. J. R. Lenders, 2014. Recente toename van Kwabaal in de IJssel-Vechtdelta: goed of slecht nieuws voor herstel van relictpopulaties? De Levende Natuur 115: 184–189.Google Scholar
  2. BoneInfo, 2014. Database of zooarchaeological and physical anthropological information. Cultural Heritage Agency, Amersfoort, The Netherlands. Accessed June 2014.
  3. Bunzel-Drüke, M., M. Scharf & O. Zimball, 2004a. Zur Biologie der Quappe. Ein Literaturüberblick und Feldstudien aus der Lippeaue. Sonderdruck aus: Naturschutz und Landschaftsplanung. Zeitschrift für angewandte Ökologie 36: 334–340.Google Scholar
  4. Bunzel-Drüke, M., M. Scharf & O. Zimball, 2004b. Die Quappe in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Bestandssituation und Schutz eines vom Aussterben bedrohten Auenfisches. LÖBF-Mitteilungen 3: 12–17.Google Scholar
  5. De Leeuw, J. J., A. D. Buijse, R. E. Grift & H. V. Winter, 2005. Management and monitoring of the return of riverine fish-species following rehabilitation of Dutch rivers. Archiv für Hydrobiologie 155(1–4): 391–411.Google Scholar
  6. De Leeuw, J. J., A. D. Buijse, G. Haidvogl, M. Lapinska, R. Noble, R. Repecka, T. Virbickas, W. Wiśniewolski & C. Wolter, 2007. Challenges in developing fish-based ecological assessment methods for large floodplain rivers. Fisheries Management and Ecology 14: 483–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dillen, A., I. Vught, D. De Charleroy, D. Monnier & J. Coeck, 2008. A preliminary evaluation of reintroductions of burbot in Flanders, Belgium. In Paragamian, V. L. & D. H. Bennett (eds), Burbot: Ecology, Management, and Culture. American Fisheries Society Symposium 59, Bethesda, Maryland: 179–186.Google Scholar
  8. Dudgeon, D., A. H. Arthington, M. O. Gessner, Z.-I. Kawabata, D. J. Knowler, C. Lévêque, R. J. Naiman, A.-H. Prieur-Richard, D. Soto, M. L. J. Stiassny & C. A. Sullivan, 2006. Freshwater biodiversity: importance, threats, status and conservation challenges. Biological Reviews 81: 163–182.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Ebersole, J. L., W. J. Liss & C. A. Frissell, 2003. Cold-water patches in warm streams: physicochemical characteristics and the influence of shading. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 39: 355–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Edsall, T. A., G. W. Kennedy & W. H. Horns, 1993. Distribution, abundance and resting microhabitat of burbot on Julian’s reef, southwestern Lake Michigan. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 122: 560–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Entrop, P. J., 1772. Geographische beschryving van de Provintie van Gelderland. Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  12. Freyhof, J. & E. Brooks, 2011. European Red List of Freshwater Fishes. Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.Google Scholar
  13. Harms, W. B., A. H. F. Stortelder & W. Vos, 1987. Effects of intensification of agriculture on nature and landscape in the Netherlands. In Wolman, M. G. & F. G. A. Fournier (eds), Land Transformation in Agriculture. Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) 32, Wiley, Chichester: 357–379.Google Scholar
  14. Huff, D. D., L. M. Miller, C. J. Chizinski & B. Vondracek, 2011. Mixed-source reintroductions lead to outbreeding depression in second-generation descendants of a native North American fish. Molecular Ecology 20: 4246–4258.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Hoffmann, R. C., 2005. A brief history of aquatic resource use in medieval Europe. Helgoland Marine Research 59: 22–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jackson, R. J., A. J. VanDeValk, J. L. Forney, B. F. Lantry, T. E. Brooking & L. G. Rudstam, 2008. Long-term trends in Burbot abundance in Oneida Lake, New York: life at the southern edge of the range in an era of climate change. In Paragamian, V. L. & D. H. Bennett (eds), Burbot: Ecology, Management, and Culture. American Fisheries Society Symposium 59, Bethesda, Maryland: 131–152.Google Scholar
  17. Kappelle, D., 2003. Vissers van de wal. Gesprekken met beroepsvissers, 1st ed. Vèrse Hoeven uitgeverij, Raamsdonksveer.Google Scholar
  18. Kottelat, M. & J. Freyhof, 2007. Handbook of European Freshwater Fishes. Kottelat, Cornol, Switzerland and Freyhof, Berlin.Google Scholar
  19. Lenders, H. J. R. (submitted). Long-term historical reconstruction of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) stocks in the Palaeo-Rhine Catchment: sources and their limitations. Submitted to Aquatic Sciences. (under review).Google Scholar
  20. Malmqvist, B. & S. Rundle, 2002. Threats to the running water ecosystems of the world. Environmental Conservation 29: 134–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. McPhail, J. D., 1997. A review of burbot (Lota lota) life history and habitat use in relation to compensation and improvement opportunities. Canadian Manuscript Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 2397, Vancouver, B.C.Google Scholar
  22. Muxika, I., A. Borja & J. Bald, 2007. Using historical data, expert judgement and multivariate analysis in assessing reference conditions and benthic ecological status, according to the European Water Framework Directive. Marine Pollution Bulletin 55: 16–29.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Nienhuis, P. H., 2008. Environmental History of the Rhine-Meuse delta. An Ecological Story on Evolving Human-Environmental Relations Coping with Climate Change and Sea-Level Rise. Springer, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  24. Nienhuis, P. H., J. P. Bakker, A. P. Grootjans, R. D. Gulati & V. N. De Jonge, 2002. The state of the art of aquatic and semi-aquatic ecological restoration projects in the Netherlands. Hydrobiologia 478: 219–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pauly, D., 1995. Anecdotes and the shifting base-line syndrome of fisheries. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 10: 430.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Ricciardi, A. & J. B. Rasmussen, 1999. Extinction rates of North American freshwater fauna. Conservation Biology 13: 220–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sala, O. E., F. S. Chapin, J. J. Armesto, R. Berlow, J. Bloomfield, R. Dirzo, E. Huber-Sanwald, L. F. Huenneke, R. B. Jackson, A. Kinzig, R. Leemans, D. Lodge, H. A. Mooney, M. Oesterheld, N. L. Poff, M. T. Sykes, B. H. Walker, M. Walker & D. H. Wall, 2000. Global biodiversity scenarios for the year 2100. Science 287: 1770–1774.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Sáenz-Arroyo, A., C. M. Roberts, J. Torre & M. Cariño-Olvera, 2005. Using fishers’ anecdotes, naturalists’ observations and grey literature to reassess marine species at risk: the case of the Gulf grouper in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Fish and Fisheries 6: 121–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Shaffer, H. B., R. N. Fisher & D. Carlos, 1998. The role of natural history collections in documenting species declines. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 13: 27–30.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Stapanian, M. A., V. L. Paragamian, C. P. Madenjian, J. R. Jackson, J. Lappalainen, M. J. Evenson & M. D. Neufield, 2010. Worldwide status of burbot and conservation measures. Fish and Fisheries 11: 34–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Stockwell, C. A. & P. L. Leberg, 2002. Ecological genetics and the translocation of native fishes: emerging experimental approaches. Western North American Naturalist 62: 32–38.Google Scholar
  32. Storfer, A., 1999. Gene flow and endangered species translocations: a topic revisited. Biological Conservation 87: 173–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Strayer, D. L. & D. Dudgeon, 2010. Freshwater biodiversity conservation: recent progress and future challenges. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 29: 344–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Torgersen, C. E., D. M. Price, H. W. Li & B. A. McIntosh, 1999. Multiscale thermal refugia and stream habitat associations of Chinook salmon in northeastern Oregon. Ecological Applications 9: 301–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Van Apeldoorn, D. F., B. Kempen, M. P. W. Sonneveld & K. Kok, 2013. Co-evolution of landscape patterns and agricultural intensification: an example of dairy farming in a traditional Dutch landscape. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 172: 16–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Van den Ende, W. P., 1847a. Verslag der werkzaamheden van de Vereeniging tot bevordering der inlandsche ichtyologie. Eerste deel. Isaac Anne Nijhoff, Arnhem: 11–15.Google Scholar
  37. Van den Ende, W. P., 1847b. Verslag der werkzaamheden van de Vereeniging tot bevordering der inlandsche ichtyologie. Eerste deel. Isaac Anne Nijhoff, Arnhem: 30–32.Google Scholar
  38. Van Houdt, J. K. J., B. Hellemans & F. A. M. Volckaert, 2003. Phylogenetic relationships among Palearctic and Nearctic burbot (Lota lota): Pleistocene extinctions and recolonization. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 29: 599–612.Google Scholar
  39. Van Houdt, J. K. J., L. De Cleyn, A. Perretti & F. A. M. Volckaert, 2005. A mitogenetic view on the evolutionary history of the Holarctic freshwater gadoid, burbot (Lota lota). Molecular Ecology 14: 2445–2457.Google Scholar
  40. Van Kessel, N., B. Niemeijer & G. Hoogerwerf, 2012. Jaarrapportage Actieve Vismonitoring Zoete Rijkswateren. Samenstelling van de visstand in de grote rivieren gedurende het winterhalfjaar 2011–2012. Natuurbalans - Limes Divergens BV, Nijmegen.Google Scholar
  41. Van Neer, W. & A. Ervynck, 2010. Defining natural fish communities for fishery management purposes: biological, historical an archaeological approaches. In Bruce, S. G. (ed.), Ecologies and Economies in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Studies in Environmental History for Richard C. Hoffmann. Brill Academic Publishers, Leiden: 193–223.Google Scholar
  42. Weeks, A. R., C. M. Sgro, A. G. Young, R. Frankham, N. J. Mitchell, K. A. Miller, M. Byrne, D. J. Coates, M. D. B. Eldridge, P. Sunnucks, M. F. Breed, E. A. James & A. A. Hoffmann, 2011. Assessing the benefits and risks of translocations in changing environments: a genetic perspective. Evolutionary Applications 4: 709–725.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Wolter, C., A. Bischoff & K. Wysujack, 2005. The use of historical data to characterize fish-faunistic reference conditions for large lowland rivers in northern Germany. Archiv für Hydrobiologie Supplement 155(1–4): 37–51.Google Scholar
  44. Worthington, T., P. Kemp, P. E. Osborne, C. Howes & K. Easton, 2010. Former distribution and decline of the burbot (Lota lota) in the UK. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 20: 371–377.Google Scholar
  45. Worthington, T., P. S. Kemp, P. E. Osborne, C. Howes & K. Easton, 2011. A review of the historical distribution and status of the burbot (Lota lota) in English rivers. Journal of Applied Ichthyology 27: 1–8.Google Scholar
  46. Worthington, T., P. S. Kemp, P. E. Osborne, A. Dillen, J. Coeck, M. Bunzel-Drüke, M. Naura, J. Gregory & K. Easton, 2012. A spatial analytical approach for selecting reintroduction sites for burbot in English rivers. Freshwater Biology 57: 602–611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yoshioka, A., Y. Miyazaki, Y. Sekizaki, S. Suda, T. Kadoya & I. Washitani, 2014. A “lost biodiversity” approach to revealing major anthropogenic threats to regional freshwater ecosystems. Ecological Indicators 36: 348–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Bosveld
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. Kranenbarg
    • 2
  • H. J. R. Lenders
    • 3
  • A. J. Hendriks
    • 3
  1. 1.Submers - Ecological Research & AdviceZutphenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.RAVON (Reptile, Amphibian and Fish Conservation the Netherlands)NijmegenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Science, Faculty of Science, Institute for Water and Wetland Research (IWWR)Radboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations