Eutrophication Effects on Prey Size and Food Available to Yellow Perch in Lake Erie

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Before 1970, yellow perch Perca flavescens grew at similar rates in Lake Erie's western and central basins. At that time, high rates of nutrient loading were causing rapid eutrophication in both areas so that by the mid-1970s the central basin had become mildly eutrophic while the shallow western basin had reached hypereutrophy. From 1970 to 1983, growth rates of yellow perch in the western basin declined sharply while growth rates increased moderately in the central basin. Modeling of bioenergetics suggests that present differences in yellow perch growth rates are due to interbasin differences in food supply and not to temperature. Direct estimation of yellow perch feeding rates in each basin in 1983 supports this inference. Food limitation in the western basin appears related to a reduced size structure of benthic prey associated with advanced eutrophy. In the central basin, larger benthic prey are available and food consumption rates by yellow perch are high. Food limitation is more serious for larger than for smaller yellow perch in the western basin, and this has apparently caused stunting and population degradation. Further evidence from the literature suggests that changes in prey size structure which accompany eutrophication may be a primary cause of the succession of fish species that occurs as lakes age. Mechanistic understanding of this succession will enhance present capacity to predict fish community responses both to ongoing eutrophication and to the more recent oligotrophication of lakes.



Lake Erie eutrophication, yellow perch growth and survival, bioenergetics modeling


Hayward, Robert S.; Margraf, F. Joseph "Eutrophication Effects on Prey Size and Food Available to Yellow Perch in Lake Erie," Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, v. 116, no. 2, 1987, pp. 210-223.