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U.S. Geological Survey - Great Lakes Science Center


  • Dobiesz, Norine E., Hecky, Robert E., Johnson, Timothy B., Sarvala, Jouko, Dettmers, John M., Lehtiniemi, Maiju, Rudstam, Lars G., Madenjian, Charles P., and Frans Witte. 2010 Metrics of ecosystem status for large aquatic systems -- A global comparison. Journal of Great Lakes Research 36 (1). pp. 123-138.

    We identified an objective set of 25 commonly available ecosystem metrics applicable across the world's large continental freshwater and brackish aquatic ecosystem. These metrics measure trophic structure, exploited species, habitat alteration, and catchment changes. We used long-term trends in these metrics as indicators of perturbations that represent an ecosystem not in homeostasis. We defined a healthy ecosystem as being in a homeostatic state; therefore, ecosystems with many changing trends were defined as more disturbed than ecosystems with fewer changing trends. Healthy ecosystems (lakes Baikal, Superior, and Tanganyika) were large, deep lakes in relatively unpopulated areas with no signs of eutrophication and no changes to their trophic structure. Disturbed ecosystems (lakes Michigan, Ontario, and Victoria) had shallow to moderately deep basins with high watershed population pressure and intense agricultural and residential land use. Transitioning systems had widely varying trends and faced increasing anthropogenic pressures. Standardized methodologies for capturing data could improve our understanding of the current state of these ecosystems and allow for comparisons of the response of large aquatic ecosystems to local and global stressors thereby providing more reliable insights into future changes in ecosystem health.

    Contribution #1553
  • Murry, Brent A., Connerton, Michael J., O'Gorman, Robert, Stewart, Donald J., and Neil H. Ringler. 2010 Lakewide estimates of alewife biomass and Chinook salmon abundance and consumption in Lake Ontario, 1989-2005: implications for prey fish sustainability. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 139 (1). pp. 223-240.

    Stocking levels of Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha for Lake Ontario have been highly controversial since the early 1990s, largely because of uncertainties about lakewide abundance and rates of prey consumption. Previous estimates have focused on years before 1995; since then, however, the Lake Ontario ecosystem has undergone substantial changes, and there is new evidence of extensive natural recruitment. Presented here are new abundance estimates of Chinook salmon and alewives Alosa pseudoharengus in Lake Ontario and a reevaluation of the potential risk of alewife population collapse. We found that Lake Ontario has been supporting, on average (1989-2005), 1.83 x 106 (range, 1.08 x 106 to 3.24 x 106) Chinook salmon of ages 1-4, amounting to a mean annual biomass of 11.33 x 103 metric tons (range, 5.83 x 103 to 23.04 x 103 metric tons). During the same period (1989-2005), the lake supported an alewife biomass of 173.66 x 103 metric tons (range, 62.37 x 103 to 345.49 x 103 metric tons); Chinook salmon of ages 1-4 consumed, on average, 22% (range, 11-44%) of the alewife biomass annually. Because our estimates probably underestimate total consumption and because Chinook salmon are only one of several salmonine species that depend on alewives, predation pressure on the Lake Ontario alewife population may be high enough to raise concerns about long-term stability of this predator-prey system.

    Contribution #1552
  • Stockwell, Jason D., Hrabik, Thomas R., Jensen, Olaf P., Yule, Daniel L., and Matthew Balge. 2010 Empirical evaluation of predator-driven diel vertical migration in Lake Superior. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 67 (3). pp. 473-485.

    Recent studies on Lake Superior suggest that diel vertical migration (DVM) of prey (generalized Coregonus spp.) may be influenced by the density of predatory siscowet (Salvelinus namaycush). We empirically evaluated this hypothesis using data from acoustic, midwater trawl, and bottom trawl sampling at eight Lake Superior sites during three seasons in 2005 and a subset of sites in 2006. We expected the larger-bodied cisco (Coregonus artedi) to exhibit a shallower DVM compared with the smaller-bodied kiyi (Coregonus kiyi). Although DVM of kiyi and cisco were consistent with expectations of DVM as a size-dependent, predator-mediated process, we found no relationship between siscowet density and the magnitude of DVM of either coregonid. Cisco appear to have a size refuge from siscowet predation. Kiyi and siscowet co-occur in demersal habitat > 150 m during the day, where visual predation is unlikely, suggesting predator avoidance is not a factor in the daytime distribution of kiyi. Seasonal patterns of kiyi DVM were consistent with reported DVM of their primary prey Mysis relicta. Our results suggest that consideration of nonvisual foraging, rather than lightbased foraging theory (i.e., the antipredation window), is necessary to understand the processes driving DVM in deepwater systems.

    Contribution #1549
  • Grapentine, Joel L. and Kurt P. Kowalski. 2010 Georeferencing large-scale aerial photographs of a Great Lakes coastal wetland: a modified photogrammetric method. Wetlands 30 (2). pp. 369-374.

    The geocontrol template method was developed to georeference multiple, overlapping analog aerial photographs without reliance upon conventionally obtained horizontal ground control. The method was tested as part of a long term wetland habitat restoration project at a Lake Erie coastal wetland complex in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. As in most coastal wetlands, annually identifiable ground-control features required to georeference photo-interpreted data are difficult to find. The geocontrol template method relies on the following four components: (a) an uncontrolled aerial photo mosaic of the study area, (b) global positioning system (GPS) derived horizontal coordinates of each photo's principal point, (c) a geocontrol template created by the transfer of fiducial markings and calculated principal points to clear acetate from individual photographs arranged in a mosaic, and (d) the root-mean-square-error testing of the system to ensure an acceptable level of planimetric accuracy. Once created for a study area, the geocontrol template can be registered in geographic information system (GIS) software to facilitate interpretation of multiple images without individual image registration. The geocontrol template enables precise georeferencing of single images within larger blocks of photographs using a repeatable and consistent method.

    Contribution #1544
  • Madenjian, Charles P., Pothoven, Steven A., Schneeberger, Philip J., Ebener, Mark P., Mohr, Lloyd C., Nalepa, Thomas F., and James R. Bence. 2010 Dreissenid mussels are not a 'dead end' in Great Lakes food webs. Journal of Great Lakes Research 36 (Supplement 1). pp. 73-77.

    Dreissenid mussels have been regarded as a "dead end" in Great Lakes food webs because the degree of predation on dreissenid mussels, on a lakewide basis, is believed to be low. Waterfowl predation on dreissenid mussels in the Great Lakes has primarily been confined to bays, and therefore its effects on the dreissenid mussel population have been localized rather than operating on a lakewide level. Based on results from a previous study, annual consumption of dreissenid mussels by the round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) population in central Lake Erie averaged only 6kilotonnes (kt; 1kt=one thousand metric tons) during 1995-2002. In contrast, our coupling of lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) population models with a lake whitefish bioenergetics model revealed that lake whitefish populations in Lakes Michigan and Huron consumed 109 and 820 kt, respectively, of dreissenid mussels each year. Our results indicated that lake whitefish can be an important predator on dreissenid mussels in the Great Lakes, and that dreissenid mussels do not represent a "dead end" in Great Lakes food webs. The Lake Michigan dreissenid mussel population has been estimated to be growing more than three times faster than the Lake Huron dreissenid mussel population during the 2000s. One plausible explanation for the higher population growth rate in Lake Michigan would be the substantially higher predation rate by lake whitefish on dreissenid mussels in Lake Huron.

    Contribution #1539
  • Stapanian, Martin A., Paragamian, Vaughn L., Madenjian, Charles P., Jackson, James R., Lappalainen, Jyrki, Evenson, Matthew J., and Matthew D. Neufeld. 2010 Worldwide status of burbot and conservation measures. Fish and Fisheries 11 (1). pp. 34-56.

    Although burbot (Lota lota Gadidae) are widespread and abundant throughout much of their natural range, there are many populations that have been extirpated, endangered or are in serious decline. Due in part to the species' lack of popularity as a game and commercial fish, few regions consider burbot in management plans. We review the worldwide population status of burbot and synthesize reasons why some burbot populations are endangered or declining, some burbot populations have recovered and some burbot populations do not recover despite management measures. Burbot have been extirpated in much of Western Europe and the United Kingdom and are threatened or endangered in much of North America and Eurasia. Pollution and habitat change, particularly the effects of dams, appear to be the main causes for declines in riverine burbot populations. Pollution and the adverse effects of invasive species appear to be the main reasons for declines in lacustrine populations. Warmer water temperatures, due either to discharge from dams or climate change, have been noted in declining burbot populations at the southern extent of their range. Currently, fishing pressure does not appear to be limiting burbot populations world-wide. We suggest mitigation measures for burbot population recovery, particularly those impacted by dams and invasive species.

    Contribution #1537
  • Stott, Wendylee, Quinlan, Henry R., Gorman, Owen T., and Timothy L. King. 2010 Genetic structure and diversity among brook trout from Isle Royale, Lake Nipigon, and three Minnesota tributaries of Lake Superior. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 30 (2). pp. 400-411.

    Brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis from Isle Royale, Michigan, three Minnesota tributaries of Lake Superior, and Lake Nipigon in Ontario were analyzed for genetic variation at 12 microsatellite DNA loci. Analysis of molecular variance, genetic distance measures, and cluster analysis were used to examine the diversity, gene flow, and relatedness among the samples. The diversity estimates for the samples from Isle Royale were similar to those for the samples collected from Minnesota tributaries of Lake Superior, and all estimates were lower than those reported in other studies of brook trout from eastern North America. Genetic differences were detected among the brook trout at Isle Royale, Lake Nipigon, and the Minnesota tributaries of Lake Superior. Further, the population in Tobin Harbor at the eastern end of Isle Royale was distinct from the populations from tributaries at the southwestern end of the island. The Minnesota tributary population formed a group that was genetically distinct from those from Isle Royale and Lake Nipigon. The Isle Royale population should be managed to preserve the genetic and phenotypic variation that distinguishes it from the other brook trout populations analyzed to date.

    Contribution #1528
  • Madenjian, Charles P., Wang, Chunfang, O'Brien, Timothy P., Holuszko, Melissa J., Ogilvie, Lynn M., and Richard G. Stickel. 2010 Laboratory evaluation of a walleye (Sander vitreus) bioenergetics model. Fish Physiology and Biochemistry 36 (1). pp. 45-53.

    Walleye (Sander vitreus) is an important game fish throughout much of North America. We evaluated the performance of the Wisconsin bioenergetics model for walleye in the laboratory. Walleyes were fed rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) in four laboratory tanks during a 126-day experiment. Based on a statistical comparison of bioenergetics model predictions of monthly consumption with the observed monthly consumption, we concluded that the bioenergetics model significantly underestimated food consumption by walleye in the laboratory. The degree of underestimation appeared to depend on the feeding rate. For the tank with the lowest feeding rate (1.4% of walleye body weight per day), the agreement between the bioenergetics model prediction of cumulative consumption over the entire 126-day experiment and the observed cumulative consumption was remarkably close, as the prediction was within 0.1% of the observed cumulative consumption. Feeding rates in the other three tanks ranged from 1.6% to 1.7% of walleye body weight per day, and bioenergetics model predictions of cumulative consumption over the 126-day experiment ranged between 11 and 15% less than the observed cumulative consumption.

    Contribution #1505
  • Madenjian, Charles P., Bunnell, David B., and Owen T. Gorman. 2010 Ninespine stickleback abundance in Lake Michigan increases after invasion of dreissenid mussels. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 139 (1). pp. 11-20.

    Based on data from our annual lakewide bottom trawl survey of Lake Michigan, we determined that density of ninespine sticklebacks Pungitius pungitius increased from an average of 0.234 kg/ha during 1973-1995 to an average of 1.318 kg/ha during 1996-2007. This greater-than-fivefold increase in density coincided with the dreissenid mussel invasion of Lake Michigan. Intervention analysis revealed that ninespine stickleback density in Lake Michigan significantly increased between the two time periods. In contrast, based on data from our annual bottom trawl survey of U.S. waters of Lake Superior, ninespine stickleback density decreased from an average of 0.133 kg/ha during 1978-1999 to an average of only 0.026 kg/ha during 2000-2007. This greater-than-fivefold density decrease, which was found to be significant via intervention analysis, coincided with population recovery for both lean and fat morphotypes of lake trout Salvelinus namaycush in Lake Superior. In contrast to Lake Michigan, dreissenid mussels have not invaded Lake Superior on a lakewide basis. Thus, a comparison of these two lakes indicated that the increase in ninespine stickleback abundance in Lake Michigan was most likely attributable to the dreissenid mussel invasion. In addition, based on our correlation analysis, alewives Alosa pseudoharengus did not have an adverse effect on ninespine stickleback abundance in Lake Michigan. Perhaps the recent increase in biomass of green algae Cladophora spp. associated with the dreissenid mussel invasion improved spawning habitat quality for ninespine sticklebacks and led to their stepwise abundance increase in Lake Michigan beginning in 1996.

    Contribution #1482


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