Nearshore energy subsidies support Lake Michigan fishes and invertebrates following major changes in food web structure

Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Illinois Natural History Survey, Purdue University
By: , and 



Aquatic food webs that incorporate multiple energy channels (e.g. nearshore benthic or pelagic) with varying productivity and turnover rates convey stability to biological communities by providing multiple independent energy sources. Within the Lake Michigan food web, invasive dreissenid mussels have caused rapid changes to food web structure and potentially altered the channels through which consumers acquire energy. We used stable C and N isotopes to determine how Lake Michigan food web structure has changed in the past decade, coincident with the expansion of dreissenid mussels, decreased pelagic phytoplankton production and increased nearshore benthic algal production. Fish and invertebrate samples collected from sites around Lake Michigan were analyzed to determine taxa-specific 13C:12C (delta 13C) and 15N:14N (delta 15N) ratios. Sampling took place during two distinct periods, 2002-2003 and 2010-2012, that spanned the period of dreissenid expansion, and included nearshore, pelagic and profundal fish and invertebrate taxa. Magnitude and direction of the 13C shift indicated significantly greater reliance upon nearshore benthic energy sources among nearly all fish taxa as well as profundal invertebrates. Although the mechanisms underlying this 13C shift likely varied among species, possible causes include the transport of benthic algal production to offshore waters and an increased reliance on nearshore prey items. Delta 15N shifts were more variable and of smaller magnitude across taxa although declines in delta 15N among some pelagic fishes may indicate a shift to alternative prey resources. Lake Michigan fishes and invertebrates appear to have responded to dreissenid induced changes in nutrient and energy pathways by switching from pelagic to alternative nearshore energy subsidies. Although large shifts in energy allocation (i.e. pelagic to nearshore benthic) resulting from invasive species appear to have affected total production at upper trophic levels, changes in trophic structure and utilization of novel energy pathways may help to stabilize food webs following species invasions.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Nearshore energy subsidies support Lake Michigan fishes and invertebrates following major changes in food web structure
Series title Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
DOI 10.1890/13-0329.1
Volume 95
Issue 5
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 10 p.
First page 1243
Last page 1252
Country United States
Other Geospatial Lake Michigan
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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