Stream ecologists often use enclosure experiments to investigate predator-prey interactions and competition within and among fish species. The design of enclosures, manipulation of species densities, and method of replication may influence experimental results. We designed an experiment with enclosure cages (1 m2, 6-mm mesh) to examine the relative influence of fish size, density, and prey availability on growth of brown trout (Salmo trutta), brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), and slimy sculpin (Cottus cognatus) within enclosures in Valley Creek, Minnesota. In addition, we examined water flow and invertebrate drift entering enclosures and in open riffles to investigate whether enclosures reduced the supply of invertebrate prey. Growth of small (age-0) brook and brown trout was not influenced by fish density, but growth of larger (age-1) trout generally decreased as density increased. Sculpin growth was not related to fish size or density, but increased with mean size of invertebrates in the drift. Enclosures reduced water flow and tended to reduce invertebrate drift rate, although total drift rate (ind./min), total drift density (ind./m3), and mean size of invertebrates were not significantly different inside enclosures compared to adjacent stream riffles. Enclosures had no effect on drift rate or size of Gammarus pseudolimnaeus, the main prey item for trout and sculpin in Valley Creek. Overall, our analyses indicated that reductions of prey availability by enclosures did not influence fish growth. Trout growth may have been limited at larger sizes and densities because of increased activity costs of establishing and defending territories, whereas sculpin growth was related to availability of large prey, a factor not influenced by enclosures. ?? 2006 by The North American Benthological Society.
Additional Publication Details
Effects of stream enclosures on drifting invertebrates and fish growth
Journal of the North American Benthological Society