Partial migration in diadromous fishes drives the allocation of subsidies across the freshwater-marine ecotone
journal contributionposted on 05.11.2021, 03:23 by G Saboret, DJ Buckle, Alison KingAlison King, MM Douglas, David CrookDavid Crook
Migratory animals can act as cross-boundary subsidies sustaining ecosystem functioning, such as diadromous fishes that migrate between fresh water and seawater and carry nutrients and energy across the freshwater-marine ecotone. Frequency and timing of migration are however highly variable within and among populations. We hypothesized that in catadromous fishes (i.e., diadromous fishes that grow in freshwater and spawn in the sea, such as eels), the import of subsidies by migratory juveniles could outweigh the export of subsidies by adults due to skipped spawning migration. We used the diamond mullet Planiliza ordensis, as a model species, and determined life-history traits using a combination of length-to-age data, acoustic telemetry and otolith (fish ear stone) microchemistry. We used a mass balance approach to model individual mass acquisition and allocation, and extended our model to other life-history strategies. Our results showed high intra-population variation of migratory behaviour in P. ordensis, with few individuals migrating every year to spawn. We estimated that an individual P. ordensis acted as a net 42.6g biomass subsidy in fresh water, representing a retention of more than 50% of the juvenile mass at freshwater entry. Our model predicts that skipped spawning is likely to alter the allocation of subsidies in diadromous species, highlighting the important effects of individual variation in migratory behaviour on fluxes of energy and nutrient at ecosystem scales. We encourage future studies to consider how variation in migratory behaviour is likely to affect the direction and magnitude of biomass fluxes across ecotone boundaries.