Indexed on: 05 Aug '17Published on: 05 Aug '17Published in: PloS one
Eutrophication and climate warming are profoundly affecting fish in many freshwater lakes. Understanding the specific effects of these stressors is critical for development of effective adaptation and remediation strategies for conserving fish populations in a changing environment. Ecological niche models that incorporated the individual effects of nutrient concentration and climate were developed for 25 species of fish sampled in standard gillnet surveys from 1,577 Minnesota lakes. Lake phosphorus concentrations and climates were hindcasted to a pre-disturbance period of 1896-1925 using existing land use models and historical temperature data. Then historical fish assemblages were reconstructed using the ecological niche models. Substantial changes were noted when reconstructed fish assemblages were compared to those from the contemporary period (1981-2010). Disentangling the sometimes opposing, sometimes compounding, effects of eutrophication and climate warming was critical for understanding changes in fish assemblages. Reconstructed abundances of eutrophication-tolerant, warmwater taxa increased in prairie lakes that experienced significant eutrophication and climate warming. Eutrophication-intolerant, warmwater taxa abundance increased in forest lakes where primarily climate warming was the stressor. Coolwater fish declined in abundance in both ecoregions. Large changes in modeled abundance occurred when the effects of both climate and eutrophication operated in the same direction for some species. Conversely, the effects of climate warming and eutrophication operated in opposing directions for other species and dampened net changes in abundance. Quantifying the specific effects of climate and eutrophication will allow water resource managers to better understand how lakes have changed and provide expectations for sustainable fish assemblages in the future.