Can underwater refuges protect fish populations against cormorant predation? Evidence from a large-scale multiple pond experiment

P. Lemmens, L. De Meester, S.A.J. Declerck

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Samenvatting

Artificial structures can protect fish against predation by cormorants (Phalacocorax spp.). However, their effectiveness in larger water bodies with different fish communities in the presence of natural vegetation still needs to be explored. Using a large-scale field experiment with 24 ponds stocked with differently composed fish communities, the present study investigates the extent to which the effect of artificial refuges on fish is species-specific and determined by the characteristics of the fish community. This study provides strong experimental evidence for artificial refuges protecting fish against predation from cormorants, even in the presence of submerged vegetation. The effect of refuges was, however, highly species-specific and depended on the composition of the fish community. Strong positive effects of refuges on rudd, Scardinius erythrophthalmus (L.), and roach, Rutilus rutilus (L.), populations were observed, especially in ponds where these species dominated. Overall, the total biomass of young-of-the-year, 1-year-old and adult rudd and roach was on average 500, 7 and 15 times lower in ponds without than in ponds with refuges, respectively. No effect of artificial refuges on other fish species was found. This study indicates that artificial refuges can facilitate the coexistence of predation vulnerable fish populations with cormorants in lakes and ponds.
Originele taal-2Engels
Pagina's (van-tot)89-98
TijdschriftFisheries Management and Ecology
Volume23
Nummer van het tijdschrift2
DOI's
StatusGepubliceerd - 2016

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