Fine stream wood : effects on drift and brown trout (Salmo trutta) growth and behaviour

Abstract: Stream ecosystems and their riparian zones have previously been regarded as two different ecosystems, linked through numerous reciprocal subsidies. Today, ecologists agree that the stream and the riparian zone should be regarded as one system, the stream-riparian ecosystem, which is characterised largely by the subsidies between land and water. The terrestrial subsidies to the stream affect stream-living biota in several ways, some of which are well-known while others less so. The input of wood to the stream from the riparian zone is believed to play an important role in the population dynamics of stream-living fish. In this doctoral thesis, I explore effects of fine stream wood (FW, <10 cm diameter) on wild stream-living young-of-the-year brown trout (Salmo trutta) by reporting and discussing results from laboratory, semi-natural and field experiments. My results show that the local density of drifting prey is higher in the presence of FW than in its absence, and also that young-of-the-year brown trout decrease their diurnal foraging time and prey capture success when FW is added to their habitat. I show that trout decrease their swimming activity in the presence of FW, aggregate in FW bundles, and have lower growth rates than trout without FW access. Also, the degree of sheltering in FW bundles was higher during day than at night in a study performed at low water temperatures; moreover, the presence of an ectothermic nocturnal predator (burbot, Lota lota) did not affect the degree of sheltering in FW bundles by trout. Taken together, my results indicate that young-of-the-year brown trout with access to FW bundles spend considerable amounts of time sheltering in the FW, and by doing so they miss the opportunity for higher growth and foraging rates outside of the shelter. The most probable explanation for this behaviour is that growth is traded off against survival, i.e., the predation risk is higher outside of the shelter.