Pereyra, P.E.R, Hallwas, G., Poesch, M.S. and R. Silvano (2021) ‘Taking fishers’ knowledge to the lab’: an interdisciplinary approach to understand fish trophic relationships in the Brazilian Amazon. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

Citation: Pereyra, P.E.R, Hallwass, G., Poesch, M.S. and R. Silvano (2021) ‘Taking fishers’ knowledge to the lab’: an interdisciplinary approach to understand fish trophic relationships in the Brazilian Amazon. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2021.723026

Abstract

Trophic levels can be applied to describe the ecological role of organisms in food webs and assess changes in ecosystems. Stable isotopes analysis can assist in the understanding of trophic interactions and use of food resources by aquatic organisms. The local ecological knowledge (LEK) of fishers can be an alternative to advance understanding about fish trophic interactions and to construct aquatic food webs, especially in regions lacking research capacity. The objectives of this study are: to calculate the trophic levels of six fish species important to fishing by combining data from stable isotopes analysis and fishers’ LEK in two clear water rivers (Tapajós and Tocantins) in the Brazilian Amazon; to compare the trophic levels of these fish between the two methods (stable isotopes analysis and LEK) and the two rivers; and to develop diagrams representing the trophic webs of the main fish prey and predators based on fisher’s LEK. The fish species studied were Pescada (Plagioscion squamosissimus), Tucunaré (Cichla pinima), Piranha (Serrasalmus rhombeus), Aracu (Leporinus fasciatus), Charuto (Hemiodus unimaculatus) and Jaraqui (Semaprochilodus spp.). A total of 98 interviews and 63 samples for stable isotopes analysis were carried out in both rivers. The average fish trophic levels did not differ between the stable isotopes analysis and the LEK in the Tapajós, nor in the Tocantins Rivers. The overall trophic level of the studied fish species obtained through the LEK did not differ from data obtained through the stable isotopes analysis in both rivers, except for the Aracu in the Tapajós River. The main food items consumed by the fish according to fishers’ LEK did agree with fish diets as described in the biological literature. Fishers provided useful information on fish predators and feeding habits of endangered species, such as river dolphin and river otter. Collaboration with fishers through LEK studies can be a viable approach to produce reliable data on fish trophic ecology to improve fisheries management and species conservation in tropical freshwater environments and other regions with data limitations.

*Lab members: Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Castaneda, R.A., Ackerman, J.D., Chapman, L.J., Cooke, S.J., Cuddington, K., Dextrase, A., Jackson, D.A., Koops, M.A., Krkosek, M., Loftus, K., Mandrak, N.E., Martel, A.L., Molnar, P., Morris, T.J., Pitcher, T.E., Poesch, M.S., Power, M., Pratt, T.C., Reid, S.M., Rodriguez, M.A., Rosenfeld, J., Wilson, C., Zanatta, D.T. and D.A.R. Drake. (2021) Approaches and research needs for advancing the protection and recovery of imperilled freshwater fishes and mussels in Canada. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Citation: Castaneda, R.A., Ackerman, J.D., Chapman, L.J., Cooke, S.J., Cuddington, K., Dextrase, A., Jackson, D.A., Koops, M.A., Krkosek, M., Loftus, K., Mandrak, N.E., Martel, A.L., Molnar, P., Morris, T.J., Pitcher, T.E., Poesch, M.S., Power, M., Pratt, T.C., Reid, S.M., Rodriguez, M.A., Rosenfeld, J., Wilson, C., Zanatta, D.T. and D.A.R. Drake. (2021) Approaches and research needs for advancing the protection and recovery of imperilled freshwater fishes and mussels in Canada. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Abstract

Effective conservation requires that species recovery measures are informed by rigorous scientific research. For imperilled freshwater fishes and mussels in Canada, numerous research gaps exist, in part owing to the need for specialized research methods. The Canadian Freshwater Species at Risk Research Network (SARNET) was formed, and identified or implemented approaches to address current research gaps, including: 1) captive experimental research populations; 2) non-lethal methods for estimating abundance and distribution; 3) non-lethal field methods to measure life-history parameters; 4) species distribution models informed by co-occurring species; 5) integration of conservation physiology into habitat and threat science; 6) evidence syntheses to evaluate threats and recovery strategies; 7) disease-transmission models to understand mussel-host relationships; 8) experimental mesocosms and manipulative experiments to evaluate key habitat stressors; 9) threat and hazard models for predictive applications; and, 10) rigorous evaluation of surrogate species. Over a dozen threat and recovery-focused SARNET-research applications are summarized, demonstrating the value of a coordinated research program between academics and government to advance scientific research on, and to support the recovery of, imperilled freshwater species.

*Lab members: Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Banting, A.*, Vinebrooke, R., Taylor, M., Carli, C. and M.S. Poesch. (2021) Impacts of a regionally-native predator on littoral macrobenthos in fishless mountain lakes: implications for assisted colonization. Conservation Science and Practice 3(2): e344.

Citation: Banting, A., Vinebrooke, R., Taylor, M., Carli, C. and M.S. Poesch. (2021) Impacts of a regionally-native predator on littoral macrobenthos in fishless mountain lakes: implications for assisted colonization. Conservation Science and Practice 3(2): e344.

Abstract

The intentional introduction of native cold-water trout into high elevation fishless lakes has been considered as a tool for building resilience to climate change (i.e. “assisted colonization”). However, ecological impacts on recipient communities are understudied. Our purpose was to inform native trout recovery by assessing potential consequences of translocating a regionally-native trout (Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Oncorhynchus clarkii) into fishless mountain lakes. We compared littoral benthic invertebrate richness, diversity, community structure, and density between three groups of lakes (native trout, nonnative trout, and fishless) in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. While richness and diversity was conserved across all lake groups, other lines of evidence suggested introducing native Westslope Cutthroat Trout into fishless lakes can alter littoral benthic invertebrate communities in similar ways as nonnative Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). The community structure of  Cutthroat Trout lakes resembled Brook Trout lakes in comparison to fishless lakes. For example, both trout lake groups contained lower density of free-swimming ameletid mayflies and a higher density of some burrowing taxa. Considering the alteration certain aquatic invertebrates can cause cascading trophic effects, we suggest risk assessments consider a broad range of taxa to mitigate risk of collateral damage from trout recovery actions.

*Lab members: Allison Banting and Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Nelson-Chorney, H.*, Carli, C.M., Davis, C.S., Vinebrooke, R.D., Poesch, M.S., and M.K. Taylor (2019) Environmental DNA in lake sediment reveals biogeography of native genetic diversity. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 17: 313-318.

Citation: Nelson-Chorney, H., Carli, C.M., Davis, C.S., Vinebrooke, R.D., Poesch, M.S., and M.K. Taylor (2019) Environmental DNA in lake sediment reveals biogeography of native genetic diversity. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 17: 313-318.

Abstract

Understanding the historical distributions of species is vital to the conservation and restoration of native species, yet such information is often qualitative. We show that the paleolimnological history of threatened freshwater fishes can be reconstructed using species‐diagnostic markers amplified from environmental DNA deposited in lake sediments (lake sedDNA). This method was validated through the detection of lake sedDNA from non‐native trout (Yellowstone cutthroat trout, Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri), which corroborated historical records of human‐mediated introductions. We also discovered native trout (westslope cutthroat trout, Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi) lake sedDNA that predated human‐mediated introductions of freshwater fishes in a watershed with high topographical relief. This unexpected result revealed that the westslope population was of native origin and requires immediate conservation protection. Our findings demonstrate that lake sedDNA can be used to determine the colonization history of freshwater fishes and the structure of ecosystems, aiding in the identification of native ranges, novel native diversity, and introductions of non‐native species. 

*Lab members:   Hedin Nelson-Chorney, Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Lamothe,K.A., Drake, D.A.R., Pitcher, T.E., Broome, J.E., Dextrase, A.J., Gillespie, A., Mandrak, N.E., Poesch, M.S., Reid, S.M. and N. Vachon. (2019) Reintroduction of fishes in Canada: a review of research progress for SARA-listed species. Environmental Reviews 27(4): 575-599.

Citation: Lamothe,K.A., Drake, D.A.R., Pitcher, T.E., Broome, J.E., Dextrase, A.J., Gillespie, A., Mandrak, N.E., Poesch, M.S., Reid, S.M. and N. Vachon. (2019) Reintroduction of fishes in Canada: a review of research progress for SARA-listed species. Environmental Reviews 27(4): 575-599.

Abstract

Fishes are among the most threatened taxa in Canada with over 70 species, subspecies, and/or Designatable Units presently listed for protection under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Protecting these species requires a diverse set of strategies based on the best-available data and information. One strategy identified in Canadian federal recovery strategies for improving the status of SARA-listed fishes is species reintroduction, which involves the release of individuals into areas from which they have been extirpated with the goal of re-establishing self-sustaining populations. The success of reintroduction relies on a comprehensive understanding of species life history and ecology, with considerations around population genetics and genomics. However, SARA-listed species are some of the most poorly known species in Canada due to their rarity and relative lack of research investment prior to the enactment of SARA. As a result, SARA-listed species have the most to lose if reintroduction activities are not carefully researched, planned, and executed. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to present an accessible summary on the state of reintroduction science for SARA-listed fishes in Canada with the hope of motivating future research to support reintroduction activities. We focus our review on 14 SARA-listed freshwater or anadromous fishes identified as candidates for reintroduction in federal recovery strategies. We follow our species-specific summaries with guidance on how basic research questions in population ecology, habitat science, and threat science provide a critical foundation for addressing knowledge gaps in reintroduction science. Subsequently, we identify the importance of genetic and genomic techniques for informing future research on the reintroduction of SARA-listed species. We conclude with recommendations for active, experimental approaches for moving reintroduction efforts forward for recovering Canadian fishes.

Voted as Editor’s Choice for 2019!

Rudolfsen, T.*, Ruppert, J.W.R.*, Davis, C., Taylor, R., Watkinson, D. and M.S. Poesch (2019) Habitat use and hybridization between the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.) and Slimy Sculpin (Cottus cognatus). Freshwater Biology 64(3): 391-404.

Citation: Rudolfsen, T.*, Ruppert, J.W.R.*, Davis, C., Taylor, R., Watkinson, D. and M.S. Poesch (2019) Habitat use and hybridization between the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.) and Slimy Sculpin (Cottus cognatus). Freshwater Biology 64(3): 391-404.

Abstract

Anthropogenic factors such as land-use change, pollution and climate change, can cause fragmentation and reduce the amount of habitat by altering preferred conditions. This process can also bring about novel species interactions and, in some cases, create or alter levels of hybridization between closely related species. We assessed the threat of hybridization to persistence of the Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.) and the Slimy Sculpin (Cottus cognatus) in the Flathead River drainage, British Columbia, Canada. Using 731 genetic samples, 10 polymorphic microsatellite loci and mitochondrial cytochrome C oxidase sequences, we assessed: (1) if there are differences in the distribution of Rocky Mountain Sculpin between contemporary and historical (35 years ago) records, (2) if hybridization is symmetrical in terms of sex specific parental contributions, and (3) if habitat preferences contribute to the distribution of pure parental and hybrid populations. We identified three hybrid locations and found that Rocky Mountain Sculpin have a distribution (1200 – 1902 m) that far exceeds the range limit reported 35 years ago (1200 – 1372 m). Additionally, hybrid mating appears to involve similar proportions of parents of both sexes from each species. Lastly, elevation, water conductivity, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen are significant factors predicting the presence of parental species. Only elevation was significant to hybrid presence. The contrasting associations of parental species with different habitat types appears to influence the extent and distribution of hybridization.

*Lab members:   Tyana Rudolfsen,  Jonathan Ruppert, Mark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Neufeld, K.*, Watkinson, D., Tierney, K. and M.S. Poesch. (2018) Incorporating connectivity in measures of habitat suitability to assess impacts of hydrologic alteration to stream fish. Diversity and Distributions 24: 593-604.

Citation: Neufeld, K.*, Watkinson, D., Tierney, K. and M.S. Poesch. (2018) Incorporating connectivity in measures of habitat suitability to assess impacts of hydrologic alteration to stream fish. Diversity and Distributions 24: 593-604.

Abstract

Hydrologic alterations are widespread in freshwater ecosystems worldwide and often detrimentally impact fish populations. Habitat suitability models are commonly used to assess these impacts, but these models frequently rely upon observed fish–habitat relationships rather than more mechanistic underpinnings. The aim of this study was to demonstrate how to incorporate swim performance into a measure of habitat connectivity at a fine scale, providing a method for assessing the availability of suitable habitat for stream fishes. We applied this technique to an endangered species, the Western Silvery Minnow Hybognathus argyritis, in the Milk River of southern Alberta, Canada. The Milk River is an augmented system, where a diversion in nearby St. Mary River augments flow by a factor >3 × (from 1–5 m3/s to 15–20 m3/s). We used laboratory measured swim performance of Western Silvery Minnow to develop a movement cost function that was used in conjunction with a habitat suitability model to assess habitat availability via a recently developed graph-theoretic metric, equivalent connected area (ECA). Stream augmentation altered not only habitat suitability but also habitat connectivity for this species. During augmentation, suitable habitat area declined by 81.3%. Changes in habitat connectivity were site dependent. Movement costs between habitat patches were lower during augmentation due to current-assisted dispersal and increased distance to patches during natural flows from dried streambeds. When movement costs were incorporated into ECA, ECA decreased by 78.0% during augmentation.With changing climate and increasing anthropogenic impacts on aquatic ecosystems, understanding how freshwater fishes relate to their habitat is critical for appropriate management. In many cases, such as the Western Silvery Minnow, mitigating habitat suitability may not be sufficient, as species are unable to reach suitable habitat. The incorporation of swim performance into habitat connectivity assessments, as carried out here, can be easily adapted to other species and situations and can improve the understanding of impacts to stream fishes and increase the effectiveness of mitigation efforts.

*Lab members: Kenton NeufeldMark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Movement Cost of Western Silvery Minnow under Augment (top) and Natural (bottom) Flow Conditions

Rudolfsen, T.*, Watkinson, D. and Poesch, M.S. (2018) Morphological divergence of the Threatened Rocky Mountain sculpin (Cottus sp.) is driven by biogeography and flow regime. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 28: 78-86.

Citation: Rudolfsen, T.*, Watkinson, D. and Poesch, M.S. (2018) Morphological divergence of the Threatened Rocky Mountain sculpin (Cottus sp.) is driven by biogeography and flow regime. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 28: 78-86.

Abstract

Stream hydrology is considered the primary factor in structuring freshwater fish communities,influencing stream habitats, food resources, and life‐history characteristics. Changes in stream hydrology, from climate change and anthropogenic sources (e.g. dams, irrigation channels), are thought to have adverse impacts on many freshwater species. The Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.) is a threatened species in Canada. Phenotypes of Rocky Mountain Sculpin were compared across a gradient of four streams differing in stream hydrology. It was hypothesized that Rocky Mountain Sculpin would show body forms minimizing drag in higher flow environments. Using geometric morphometrics and meristic counts, body shape, fin rays, and sensory pores were compared. As hypothesized, high‐flow river systems were correlated with sculpin with more dorso‐ventrally compressed, slender body shapes that minimized resistance to flow (P<0.001). Rocky Mountain Sculpin had more pectoral fin rays in populations with higher flows than lower flows,potentially allowing them to increase friction when gripping onto the substrate (P<0.001), and more anteriorly and dorsally located head pores to improve detection of floating prey (P<0.001). Biogeographic isolation and difference in flow regime were the likely basis for the observed morphological variation. The degree to which these phenotypes become fixed is unknown;however, since phenotypic diversity parallels genetic diversity in Rocky Mountain Sculpin,there is the possibility that persistent selection of these phenotypes can make it difficult to adapt to rapidly changing habitat conditions, such as changing flow. This study emphasizes the importance of considering phenotypic and morphological variation when evaluating how best to mitigate anthropogenic stressors and their impact on freshwater fishes.

* Lab members: Tyana RudolfsenMark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Flow Regime across the range of Rocky Mountain Sculpin

Morphological Differences Across Populations (Dorsal view) of Rocky Mountain Sculpin

Veillard, M.F.*, Ruppert, J.L.W.*, Tierney, K., Watkinson, D., and M.S. Poesch. (2017) Comparative swimming and station-holding ability of the threatened Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.) from four hydrologically distinct rivers. Conservation Physiology 5: 1-12.

Citation: Veillard, M.F.*, Ruppert, J.L.W.*, Tierney, K., Watkinson, D., and Poesch, M.S. 2017. Comparative swimming and station-holding ability of the threatened Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.) from four hydrologically distinct rivers. Conservation Physiology 5: 1-12.

Abstract

Hydrologic alterations, such as dams, culverts or diversions, can introduce new selection pressures on freshwater fishes, where they are required to adapt to novel environmental conditions. Our study investigated how species adapt to natural and altered stream flow, where we use the threatened Rocky Mountain Sculpin (Cottus sp.) as a model organism. We compared the swimming and station-holding performance of Rocky Mountain Sculpin from four different hydrologic regimes in Alberta and British Columbia, including the North Milk River, a system that experiences increased flows from a large-scale diversion. We measured the slip (Uslip) and failure (Uburst) velocities over three constant acceleration test trials. Uslipwas defined as the point at which individuals required the addition of bursting or swimming to maintain position. Uburst was defined as the point at which individuals were unable to hold position in the swimming chamber through swimming, bursting or holding techniques without fully or partially resting on the electrified back plate. We found individuals from the Flathead River in British Columbia (with the highest natural flow) failed at significantly higher Uburstvelocities than fish from the southern Albertan populations. However, there was no relationship between peak hydrologic flow from the natal river and Uburst or Uslip. Further, Uburst velocities decreased from 51.8 cm s−1 (7.2 BL s−1) to 45.6 cm s−1 (6.3 BL s−1) by the third consecutive test suggesting the use of anaerobic metabolism. Uslip was not different between trials suggesting the use of aerobic metabolism in station-holding behaviours (Uslip). Moreover, we found no significant differences in individuals from the altered North Milk River system. Finally, individual caudal morphological characteristics were related to both slip and failure velocities. Our study contributes to the conservation of Rocky Mountain Sculpin by providing the first documentation of swimming and station-holding abilities of this benthic fish.

*Lab members: Marie VeillardJonathan RuppertMark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Difference in Swim Performance Across Populations of Rocky Mountain Sculpin. Shown are Tukey contrasts (estimate +/- 95% confidence intervals) between rivers (top row) and constant acceleration trial (CAT) numbers (bottom row) for failure (Uburst) and slip (Uslip) velocities from linear effects model. Significant differences are noted in yellow; Rivers are abbreviated as: Flathead River (FH), St. Mary River (SM), Lee Creek (LC) and North Milk River (NM).

Thayer, D.*, Ruppert, J.L.W., Watkinson, D., Clayton, T. and M.S. Poesch. (2017) Identifying temporal bottlenecks for the conservation of large-bodied fishes: Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fluvescens) show highly restricted movement and habitat-use overwinter. Global Ecology and Conservation 10: 194-205.

Citation: Thayer, D.*, Ruppert, J.L.W., Watkinson, D., Clayton, T. and M.S. Poesch. (2017) Identifying temporal bottlenecks for the conservation of large-bodied fishes: Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fluvescens) show highly restricted movement and habitat-use overwinter. Global Ecology and Conservation 10: 194-205.

Abstract

The relationship between species’ size and home range size has been well studied. In practice, home range may provide a good surrogate of broad spatial coverage needed for species conservation, however, many species can show restricted movement during critical life stages, such as breeding and over-wintering. This suggests the existence of either a behavioral or habitat mediated ‘temporal bottleneck,’ where restricted or sedentary movement can make populations more susceptible to harm during specific life stages. Here, we study over-winter movement and habitat use of Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), the largest freshwater fish in North America. We monitored over-winter movement of 86 fish using a hydro-acoustic receiver array in the South Saskatchewan River, Canada. Overall, 20 fish remained within our study system throughout the winter. Lake Sturgeon showed strong aggregation and sedentary movement over-winter, demonstrating a temporal bottleneck. Movement was highly restricted during ice-on periods (ranging from 0.9 km/day in November and April to 0.2 km/day in mid-November to mid-March), with Lake Sturgeon seeking deeper, slower pools. We also show that Lake Sturgeon have strong aggregation behavior, where distance to conspecifics decreased (from 575 to 313 m) in preparation for and during ice-on periods. Although the Lake Sturgeon we studied had access to 1100 kilometers of unfragmented riverine habitat, we show that during the over-winter period Lake Sturgeon utilized a single, deep pool (<0.1% of available habitat). The temporal discrepancy between mobile and sedentary behaviors in Lake Sturgeon suggest adaptive management is needed with more localized focus during periods of temporal bottlenecks, even for large-bodied species.

*Lab members: Donnette ThayerJonathan RuppertMark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Monthly core (C) and range (R) extent kernel density maps for: A) November, B) December, C) January, D) February, E) March, and F) April. Black lines are core range (50% percentile), broken lines range (90th percentile) extent.