Species-specific preferences drive the differential effects of lake factors on fish production
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
As the global human population grows it remains a top priority for communities, managers, policymakers, and stakeholders to maintain healthy, sustainable, and productive fisheries under continued global change. Here we used a dataset consisting of fish and lake characteristics for 536 lakes across Ontario, Canada, to test whether multiple climate, human, and biological factors differentially affect fish production (i.e., population biomass per hectare per year). We tested the hypothesis that
... hypothesis that temperature is the key driver of fisheries production by testing for the effects of multiple factors on the production of three top-predatory fish species: cold-water lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), cool-water walleye (Sander vitreus), and warm-water smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu). Using boosted regression tree (BRT) analyses we found that lake trout production was most influenced by the volume of hypolimnetic habitat, walleye production was related to other climatic variables, and smallmouth bass production was most influenced by sampling day of the year followed by Secchi depth. Our results suggest that current fish production models – that only include temperature and body size – may over-simplify important ecological complexities and thus misinform management decisions because species respond differently to environmental drivers.