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Study Finds Lake Erie Hypoxic Zone Doesn’t Affect All Fish The Same

Published on: 01/25/2011

Researchers supported through the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science’s Ecological Forecasting Program (ECOFORE) have been studying hypoxia in Lake Erie since 2006. In recent findings, researchers at Purdue University used bioenergetic growth rate models, which use data about conditions that each species needs in order to survive, to determine when and at what depth fish species’ habitats were affected by hypoxia.

The model results were compared with conditions in Lake Erie from the recent past to determine when and how often different fish species would be affected. Lake Erie hypoxia negatively affected habitat quality for all species, as related to lower dissolved oxygen and higher water temperatures, but to varying degrees.

Model simulations showed that, for example, yellow perch saw little decrease in individual growth performance and population dynamics from hypoxia-reduced habitat quality, while round goby and rainbow smelt were more significantly affected individually and as a population by hypoxia-reduced habitat quality. Future work will focus on whether hypoxia forces fish species to move to different habitats, and the effects of those movements on fish growth and species interactions.

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