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Title: Importance of fish behaviour in modelling conservation problems: food limitation as an example

Author: Railsback, Steven; Harvey, Bret;

Date: 2011

Source: Journal of Fish Biology

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Simulation experiments using the inSTREAM individual-based brown trout Salmo trutta population model explored the role of individual adaptive behaviour in food limitation, as an example of how behaviour can affect managers’ understanding of conservation problems. The model includes many natural complexities in habitat (spatial and temporal variation in characteristics such as depth and velocity, temperature, hiding and feeding cover, drift-food supply and predation risk), fish physiology (especially, how food intake and growth vary with hydrodynamics, cover, fish size and temperature) and behaviour. When drift-food concentration was increased over a wide range in 7 year simulations, the simulated population was always food limited. In fact, as food supply increased, the population increased at an increasing rate and consumed a higher percentage of the food supply, apparently because higher food concentrations make more stream area energetically profitable for drift feeders. The behaviour most responsible for this response was activity selection: when food was abundant, fish chose to feed less frequently and more nocturnally, thereby reducing predation mortality so more fish survived longer. These results indicate that the traditional concept of food limitation, that food availability stops limiting population size when it exceeds some threshold level, may not be useful and can be misleading. Results also strongly contradict the concept that a salmonid population is not food limited if the total food supply is greater than the population’s consumption. Explicit consideration of adaptive behaviour produced a novel but believable understanding of food effects on salmonid populations.

Keywords: adaptive behaviour, diel, habitat selection, individual-based modeling, salmonid, fish

Publication Notes:

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Railsback, Steven; Harvey, Bret 2011. Importance of fish behaviour in modelling conservation problems: food limitation as an example. Journal of Fish Biology


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