Historically, multiple species of diadromous fishes served as a coastal food source for commercially valuable nearshore predators. However, severe declines in diadromous fish populations in the nearshore Gulf of Maine (GOM) have impacted trophic dynamics and increased pressure on other estuarine-dependent forage resources. The objective of this study was to compare the trophic positions and interspecific interactions of diadromous fishes as predators and prey in relation to current GOM forage fishes. Empirical biomass data along with diet compositions and vital rates were used to construct a static model of a representative GOM coastal food web: the Saco River estuary (SRE) in Maine. A series of sensitivity analyses based on model outputs was performed to determine the trophic role of diadromous fishes in this estuarine food web. Model results suggested that juvenile marine transients played a greater role as forage species for SRE predators than did the anadromous Blueback Herring Alosa aestivalis and Alewife Alosa pseudoharengus. Due to the abundant forage fish base, Atlantic Sturgeon Acipenser oxyrinchus and Shortnose Sturgeon Acipenser brevirostrum were estimated to have a greater trophic position than reported in past literature. Lower-trophic-level fishes functioned as keystone prey species for sturgeon. The use of holistic approaches to update the ecological data on predator-prey interactions among diadromous fishes and forage resources within coastal ecosystems is necessary for the future management of these ecologically significant and threatened species.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science