Indirect effects of fish winterkills on amphibian populations in boreal lakes

TitelIndirect effects of fish winterkills on amphibian populations in boreal lakes
MedientypJournal Article
Jahr der Veröffentlichung2005
AutorenEaton, B. R., W. M. Tonn, C. A. Paszkowski, and S. M. Boss
JournalCanadian Jornal of Zoology

We exploited fish winterkills in small, boreal Alberta lakes to determine if anuran amphibians respond to large but natural changes in fish densities. Eight large declines in fish abundance occurred in seven lakes over a 5 year period, while major increases in fish abundance, reflecting recovery after winterkill, were recorded 5 times. Summer pitfall trapping of young-of-the-year (YOY) Wood Frogs (Rana sylvatica LeConte, 1825) and Boreal (Bufo boreas boreas Baird and Girard, 1852) and Canadian (Bufo hemiophrys Cope, 1886) toads indicated that frog abundance responded consistently to such large changes in fish abundance, but especially if fish communities were dominated by small-bodied species (sticklebacks and minnows). As well, changes in YOY Wood Frog and fish abundance were negatively correlated; YOY Wood Frogs were as much as 7.7 times more abundant after winterkills than in non-winterkill years. These increases in metamorphs did not result from an increased immigration of breeding adults to winterkill lakes, suggesting instead that larval survival was greater. Higher abundance of YOY Wood Frogs and toads was associated with smaller body size at metamorphosis. Despite this apparent reduction in individual growth, abundance of juvenile frogs remained significantly elevated 1 year after winterkill. In contrast to Wood Frogs, YOY toads tended to respond positively to recoveries of small-fish populations. Because anuran amphibians can respond to fish winterkill, and because winterkill is a frequent natural disturbance, small fish-bearing lakes can serve as important breeding habitat for amphibians in Alberta's boreal forest.


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