In the Great Lakes there is still uncertainty as to the population level effects of a thiamine deficiency on salmonines caused by high consumption of alewives Alosa pseudoharengus. A resurgence of lake trout Salvelinus namaycush reproduction in Lake Huron following the crash of alewife stocks between 2002 and 2004 provided an opportunity to evaluate the relative effects of this crash on reproduction through relief from either alewife mediated thiamine deficiency or alewife predation on larval lake trout relative to possible changes in the size of the lake trout spawning stock. Changes in mean lake trout egg thiamine concentration post crash at one spawning reef in Parry Sound, wheremean thiamine concentration increased by almost two fold, were consistent with diet switching from alewives to rainbow smelt Osmerus mordax, the next most abundant prey fish in Lake Huron. Although thiamine levels for lake trout collected at a second reef in Parry Sound did not change post-crash, levels both pre- and post-crash were consistent with a rainbow smelt diet. A reef specific fry emergence index was found to be positively related to reef specific egg thiamine concentration but negatively related to reef specific occurrence of EMS, a thiamine deficiency related mortality syndrome. We found little evidence for overlap between the timing of spring shoreward migration of alewives and lake trout emergence, suggesting that relief from alewife predation effects had relatively little effect on the observed increase in lake trout recruitment. Numbers of spawners in the north, north-central, and southern zones of the lake increased from 2000 onwards. Overall the abundance post-2003 was higher than from pre-2004, suggesting that spawner abundance may also have contributed to increased lake trout reproduction. However, predicted numbers of spawners and measured abundance of wild recruits in assessment gear were poorly correlated suggesting that the increase in reproduction was not totally spawner dependent and hence relief from thiamine deficiency was also likely involved. We conclude from this that eliminating the effects of an alewife diet mediated thiamine deficiency can have positive effects on lake trout reproduction but more research is required to understand the effect of spawner number and the role of spawning habitat availability. ?? 2010 AEHMS.
Additional publication details
Increase in lake trout reproduction in lake huron following the collapse of alewife: Relief from thiamine deficiency or larval predation?