Shallow freshwater aquatic ecosystems are discrete feeding patches for fish eating birds. A unique feature of these ecosystems is that their physical conditions can change dramatically in a short period of time, particularly temperature, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. Based on previous research we predicted that increasing turbidity will reduce the availability of fish to birds due to reduced visibility, while increasing temperature and decreasing dissolved oxygen will increase their availability through increases in activity and movement towards the more oxygenated surface areas, respectively. We also predicted that overall abundance of fish should increase feeding activity by terns. We measured these environmental variables, bird activity, and fish abundance from May to August from 2006 to 2008 in a marsh in southern Manitoba, Canada. Our results showed that only variation in dissolved oxygen levels affected feeding activity by terns. Since there was no relationship between bird and fish abundance either within or among years, these results suggest that it is the availability of prey (i.e. the upward movement of fish into the water column) and not their abundance per se that influences the number of avian predators present and hence the risk of predation to fish. These data demonstrate how the physical environment of aquatic ecosystems can impact terrestrial avian predators, and the link that exists between the physical environment and predator-prey interactions.
Environmental Biology of Fishes – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 18, 2018
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