Synchrony in whitefish stock dynamics: disentangling the effects of local drivers and climate

Whitefish (courtesy of Rémi Masson)
Submitted: 15 March 2023
Accepted: 17 May 2023
Published: 8 June 2023
Abstract Views: 1945
PDF: 352
Appendix A: 46
Appendix B: 38
Appendix C: 38
Appendix D: 37
HTML: 18
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Synchronic variations in abundance in populations of the same species are common phenomena encountered in various environments, including lakes, and different taxa of freshwater fishes. This phenomenon can be caused by similar environmental conditions across physically separated populations. In the context of the ongoing climate change, it is essential to test this hypothesis, identify the factors driving the synchrony and elucidate the mechanisms, in the attempt to improve fisheries management. This study investigates synchronic variations in European whitefish (Coregonus spp.) populations in five peri-alpine lakes. The hypothesis suggests that shared biotic or abiotic factors contribute to similar trends in whitefish landings. Environmental and seasonal variables impacting the early life stages of the species were analyzed, and the Euclidean distances between the multivariate time series were calculated to identify similarities or dissimilarities in lake environmental parameters. We found that regional winter and spring temperatures were consistent across the lakes, but these factors did not fully account for variations in landings statistics. Wind intensity, water level and zooplankton abundance showed lake-specific patterns that could better explain local conditions and dynamics. Linear models did not reveal a coherent correlation with a common environmental variable across all lakes. However, distinct relationships were found in four of the lakes, with local factors significantly contributing to abundance variations. The spring abundance of Daphnia spp., a primary food source for whitefish larvae, was the main factor correlated with fish landing trends in Lake Geneva and Lake Bourget. Higher availability of Daphnia spp. may decrease intraspecific competition and density-dependent mortality. In Lake Neuchâtel, winter water temperature was negatively correlated with fish abundance proxies, suggesting that warmer winters may compromise reproduction success. Lake Annecy saw an increase in whitefish landings following a substantial reduction in fishing efforts during the late 2000s. A significant negative correlation was found between whitefish landings and fishing efforts. No relationship was found for Lake Aiguebelette, maybe due to a lack of zooplankton data. In conclusion, the observed synchrony in the European whitefish population is likely driven by a combination of interacting environmental and anthropogenic factors rather than a single common variable. Further research and a more detailed dataset are needed to better understand these complex relationships.


Article cover image: Whitefish (Credit: Rémi Masson)



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Edited by

Diego Fontaneto, National Research Council, Water Research Institute (CNR-IRSA), Verbania Pallanza, Italy

How to Cite

Bourinet, Fabien, Orlane Anneville, Hilaire Drouineau, Chloé Goulon, Jean Guillard, and Alexandre Richard. 2023. “Synchrony in Whitefish Stock Dynamics: Disentangling the Effects of Local Drivers and Climate”. Journal of Limnology 82 (1).

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