Density-dependent life-history compensation of an iteroparous salmonid

Johnston, F.D. & Post, J.R. (2009). Density-dependent life-history compensation of an iteroparous salmonid. Ecological Applications 19 (2) 449-467. 10.1890/07-1507.1.

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Over the course of a decade, the bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) population in Lower Kananaskis Lake, Alberta, Canada, recovered from a heavily overexploited state, experiencing a 28-fold increase in adult abundance after the implementation of zero-harvest regulations. This system provided a unique opportunity to monitor the changes in life-history characteristics in a natural population throughout the recovery process. The purpose of this study was to examine the degree to which life-history traits were able to compensate for harvest- induced changes and the implications of this for management. Density-dependent changes in growth, survival, and reproductive life-history characteristics were observed. As density increased, maturation was delayed, and the frequency of skipped reproductive events, primarily by individuals of poor condition, increased. However, size at maturation and the proportion of fish skipping reproduction differed between the sexes, suggesting that lifehistory trade-offs differ between the sexes. The rapid response of these life-history traits to changes in density suggests that these changes were primarily due to phenotypic plasticity, although the importance of natural and artificial selection should not be discounted. The magnitude of the variation in the traits represents the degree to which the population was able to compensate for overharvest, although the overexploited state of the population at the beginning of the study demonstrates it was not able to fully compensate for this mortality. However, no evidence of depensatory processes was found. This, in combination with the plasticity of the life-history traits, has important implications for the resilience of the population to overharvest. Furthermore, density-dependent growth may have the unintended result of making size-based regulations less conservative at low levels of population abundance, as younger fish, perhaps even immature fish, become vulnerable to harvest. Finally, the variation in life-history traits in relation to evolutionary change is discussed. Results from this study demonstrate the importance of considering not only survival, but also changes in life-history characteristics for management and conservation.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Alberta; Angling; Bull trout; Canada; Fecundity; Fisheries management; Growth; Lower Kananaskis Lake; Maturation; Phenotypic plasticity; Recovery; Recreational fishing; Salvelinus confluentus; Skipped spawning
Research Programs: Evolution and Ecology (EEP)
Bibliographic Reference: Ecological Applications; 19(2):449-467 (March 2009)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 08:42
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:20

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