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Using size spectra to assess production potential for fisheries in the Great Lakes

Thomas Evans, Lars Rudstam, Jim Watkins, Doran Mason (NOAA), Zacharias Feiner (Wisconsin DNR), Gary Sprules (Univ. Toronto) (Funded by CIGLR – Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research) 

Changes in the structure of community size spectra have been suggested to operate as indicators for ecosystem change or function, but the necessary understanding of how the size structure of communities respond to major ecological change to create useful predictions based on size spectra shifts is lacking.  This research will provide a mechanistic understanding of the effects of anthropogenic disturbance on size spectra across a range of ecosystems.  The opportunity to use the Great Lakes as a natural experiment allows me to identify spatial heterogeneity in community size structure and its relationship to the taxonomic composition and diversity in aquatic systems.  In addition, freshwater size spectra are relatively understudied compared to their marine counterparts.  Identifying how size structure responds to ecosystem restructuring, and evaluating the stability of size spectra following ecosystem change, will improve our understanding of processes like niche construction, species coexistence, and the effects of altered energy flows in food webs.