The influence of eutrophication and population biomass on common whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) growth : the Lake Constance example revisited
2007, Thomas, Gregor, Eckmann, Reiner
Accelerated growth of freshwater fish during anthropogenic eutrophication has been attributed almost exclusively to the increased nutrient content, while density-dependent effects have been largely neglected. We evaluated the relative importance of these factors by studying the growth of 43 consecutive year classes of common whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) from Upper Lake Constance. This prealpine lake underwent eutrophication from the 1950s to 1970s, followed by reoligotrophication. Because whitefish are harvested with gill nets in a strongly size-selective way, we used back-calculated lengths of average fast-growing fish to compare growth among cohorts. Standing stock biomass was estimated based upon virtual year-class strengths. Multiple linear regression analysis revealed that growth of whitefish during their second year was most strongly related to standing stock biomass followed by PO4-P content during spring turnover and by calendar year, which was incorporated as a third independent variable (adjusted R2 = 0.84). The negative correlation between whitefish growth rate and calendar year is interpreted as evidence of an evolutionary response to the highly size-selective fishery during at least four decades. We conclude that density-dependent effects on whitefish growth are more important than had been realized previously and that the impact of eutro- phication on growthof whitefish needs to be reconsidered.