Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Pennsylvania
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Wagner, T., and 7 coauthors. 2010. Spatial and temporal dynamics of lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) health measures: linking individual-based indicators to a management-relevant endpoint. Journal of Great Lakes Research 36:121-134.


We examined the spatial and temporal dynamics of health indicators in four lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) stocks located in northern lakes Michigan and Huron from 2003 to 2006. The specific objectives were to (1) quantify spatial and temporal variability in health indicators; (2) examine relationships among nutritional indicators and stock-specific spatial and temporal dynamics of pathogen prevalence and intensity of infection; and (3) examine relationships between indicators measured on individual fish and stockspecific estimates of natural mortality. The percent of the total variation attributed to spatial and temporal sources varied greatly depending on the health indicator examined. The most notable pattern was a downward trend in the concentration of highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs), observed in all stocks, in the polar lipid fraction of lake whitefish dorsal muscle tissue over the three study years. Variation among stocks and years for some indicators were correlated with the prevalence and intensity of the swimbladder nematode Cystidicola farionis, suggesting that our measures of fish health were related, at some level, with disease dynamics. We did not find relationships between spatial patterns in fish health indicators and estimates of natural mortality rates for the stocks. Our research highlights the complexity of the interactions between fish nutritional status, disease dynamics, and natural mortality in wild fish populations. Additional research that identifies thresholds of health indicators, below (or above) which survival may be reduced, will greatly help in understanding the relationship between indicators measured on individual fish and potential population-level effects.