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Antagonistic effects of temperature and dissolved organic carbon on fish growth in California mountain lakes.

  • Author(s): Symons, Celia C
  • Schulhof, Marika A
  • Cavalheri, Hamanda B
  • Shurin, Jonathan B
  • et al.
Abstract

Resources and temperature play major roles in determining biological production in lake ecosystems. Lakes have been warming and 'browning' over recent decades due to climate change and increased loading of terrestrial organic matter. Conflicting hypotheses and evidence have been presented about whether these changes will increase or decrease fish growth within lakes. Most studies have been conducted in low-elevation lakes where terrestrially derived carbon tends to dominate over carbon produced within lakes. Understanding how fish in high-elevation mountain lakes will respond to warming and browning is particularly needed as warming effects are magnified for mountain lakes and treeline is advancing to higher elevations. We sampled 21 trout populations in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California to examine how body condition and individual growth rates, measured by otolith analysis, varied across independent elevational gradients in temperature and dissolved organic carbon (DOC). We found that fish grew faster at warmer temperatures and higher nitrogen (TN), but slower in high DOC lakes. Additionally, fish showed better body condition in lakes with higher TN, higher elevation and when they exhibited a more terrestrial δ13C isotopic signature. The future warming and browning of lakes will likely have antagonistic impacts on fish growth, reducing the predicted independent impact of warming and browning alone.

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