Population ecology, growth, and physico-chemical habitat of anadromous European perch Perca fluviatilis
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Anadromous sub-populations of stenohaline freshwater fish are vastly understudied in the estuarine environment. The purpose of the present study was therefore to study the population ecology, growth rate, and physico-chemical environment of an anadromous sub-population of European perch (Perca fluviatilis) from the western Baltic Sea. Fish (301) were marked with external identification tags, and anglers and fishermen reported recaptures in a citizen science set-up over three years. In addition, scale samples were collected for population growth rate determination. Furthermore, water temperature, salinity, and oxygen concentration were monitored in the area. The fish showed a consistent annual migration pattern over the three years residing in a bay during summer while being in a delta during autumn, winter, and spring. The population had a high growth rate, but a meta-analysis showed that growth of European perch is not distinctly different between estuarine and freshwater populations. The average salinity measured in the area was around 10, but increased on multiple occasions to salinity levels known for being physiologically challenging for European perch. We argue that high growth rates of estuarine European perch is more likely due to high food availability and low interspecific competition in this environment, rather than due to physiologically optimal salinities. Furthermore, the European perch in the present study lived on the edge of the species salinity tolerance, and the migration into the delta during winter is likely a combination of avoiding high salinities at low temperatures and a spawning migration. These results are important knowledge for the management of estuaries and coastal areas, especially as climate change is locally altering these environments drastically, and calls for further studies on other anadromous sub-populations of stenohaline freshwater fish.
|Tidsskrift||Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science|
|Status||Udgivet - 2021|