Elevated allochthonous inputs of nutrients and sediments to aquatic ecosystems are associated with eutrophication and sedimentation. Reservoirs receive substantial subsidies of nutrients and sediments from catchments due to their large catchment: lake area ratios. We examined the effect of elevated subsidies of sediments and/or dissolved nutrients on the success (survival, growth, biomass and condition factor) of larval gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum), a widespread and dominant omnivorous fish in reservoir ecosystems. We simulated allochthonous agricultural subsides by manipulating dissolved nutrients and sediment inputs in a 2 × 2 factorial design in experimental mesocosms. We predicted that larval fish success would be greater under elevated nutrients. However, we propose two alternative hypotheses with respect to the overall effect of allochthonous sediment inputs. If sediment inputs negatively affect larval gizzard feeding success, larval success would be highest when only nutrients are added and lowest when only sediments are added (+N > +N+S ≥ C > +S). If high turbidity enhances larval foraging activity (due to greater contrast between prey and background), we predict that larval success would be highest when both subsidy types (nutrients and sediment) are elevated, intermediate when either nutrients or sediments are added and the lowest when no subsidies are added (+N+S > +N ≥ +S > C). Our results indicate that elevated nutrient and sediment conditions enhanced larval gizzard shad biomass, but the overall nutrient addition effect was greater than the sediment addition effect (+N ∼ +N+S > +S > C). We observed differential effects of nutrient and sediment inputs on larval survival, growth and condition factors. The enhancement of fish biomass in elevated nutrients (+N, +N+S) relative to control conditions was associated with improved gizzard shad survival and not greater growth. The enhancement of fish biomass in the elevated sediment treatment (+S) relative to the control conditions was caused by an increase in survival that more than compensated for a negative effect of sediment addition on growth. Our findings support the recommendation that reservoir management practices must consider the links between land use practices and food web dynamics. Our results suggest that reduction of subsidies of nutrients and sediments to productive reservoirs would decrease survival of larval gizzard shad due to lower food availability.
- Larval fish