Nav: Home

Climate change affecting fish in Ontario lakes, University of Guelph study reveals

March 22, 2019

Warmer temperatures are having a ripple effect on food webs in Ontario lakes, according to a new University of Guelph study.

Researchers have found warmer average temperatures over the past decade have forced fish to forage in deeper water. There they hunt different prey species, causing a climate-induced "rewiring" of food webs, altering the flow of energy and nutrients in the lake.

Monitoring the movement of generalist species like lake trout may offer an early warning system for impacts of climate change on ecosystems.

"We can harness the natural capacity of species to detect and respond to changes in their environment," said Tim Bartley, a post-doc in the Department of Integrative Biology and study lead author. "As species are changing their behaviour, they are telling us about what's happening around them in their environment. We can use this information. The behavioural changes we see imply major reorganization of ecosystems."

Published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, the study entailed tracking lake trout movement and feeding in hundreds of lakes in northwestern Ontario.

Bartley caught fish to analyze their tissues to see what they ate. The team also used similar data about fish feeding habits and locations across the province from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

Tissue analysis showed that lake trout spend more time in deeper water than near shore, although the researchers were unable to identify specific prey species. Lake trout prefer to catch lake herring; Bartley said trout are flexible feeders that will eat other fish species as well as invertebrates.

He said warming may also be pushing lake herring into colder waters, meaning that lake trout may still feed on them in offshore locations.

Monitoring behavioural changes in species such as lake trout is important for humans who rely on ecosystems for resources and services from food to water quality, said Bartley.

Climate change effects are complicated and vary within ecosystems to create a patchwork of new conditions, he said. Other organisms, including lake trout prey, are also moving in response to warming.

Tracking the movement, feeding habits and condition of generalist species such as lake trout may give resource managers an early warning system for detecting the effects of warming.

That's important for managing the entire ecosystem and for looking after populations of lake trout, a popular sport fish for anglers, said Bartley.

But it's not just happening in lakes.

The study also includes data from American researchers showing similar ecosystem "rewiring" in grasslands involving grasshoppers and predatory spiders moving down to cooler areas nearer the soil.

The U of G researchers also point to other studies of climate change effects on rewiring of ecosystems involving beluga whales and halibut in Nunavut, polar bears and ringed seals across the Arctic, and Kodiak bears feeding on elderberries and sockeye salmon on the Pacific coast.

The report's authors, including integrative biology professors Kevin McCann and Andrew McDougall, concluded: "With further research, we can harness generalists' responses to predict functional outcomes of climate change on the world's ecosystems."
-end-


University of Guelph

Related Climate Change Articles:

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.
Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.
Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.
Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.
Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.
A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.
Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.