W-E-7 Explaining Growth Variation Over Large Spatial Scales: Effects of Temperature and Food on Walleye Growth
Wednesday, August 22, 2012: 9:30 AM
Ballroom E (RiverCentre)
Most fishes exhibit strong spatial variation in growth. Because fish growth and production are tightly linked, quantifying and explaining variation in growth can mean the difference between successful management and unforeseen collapse. However, disentangling the factors that are responsible for among-lake variation in growth (e.g., food and temperature) has proved very difficult. Here, we use length at age and temperature data from hundreds of water bodies between 44⁰N to 53⁰N latitude to explain variation in immature growth of walleye (Sander vitreus), one of the most economically valuable freshwater fish species in North America. We then use length at age data from yellow perch (Perca flavescens) to identify the mechanisms behind the remaining variation in the length at age – temperature relationship for walleye. A positive perch – walleye relationship indicates that the mechanism behind the variation is productivity and a negative relationship indicates density-dependence. We found that variation in walleye growth among water bodies is largely explained by food productivity - not density-dependence. These results suggest that we can’t detect density-dependence among lakes when density-dependent effects are swamped by differences in productivity.