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Keywords:

  • salmonid conservation;
  • habitat structure;
  • stream substratum;
  • spawning sites;
  • flagship species;
  • migration barriers

Abstract

  • 1.
    The lacustrine brown trout (Salmo trutta) is endangered and of high conservation importance. In the only spawning habitat of the population in the Bavarian Lake Walchensee, the River Obernach, a substantial decrease in spawning runs has been reported. In this study, the present ecological state of the spawning stream was analysed with the objective of identifying life-stage specific limitations to successful recruitment attributable to deficiencies in (i) spawning migration, (ii) spawning habitat quality, and (iii) habitat quality for juveniles.
  • 2.
    Structural stream analysis showed that discharge and several migration barriers — particularly near the river outlet into the lake — prevent successful spawning migrations at normal water levels. Migration barriers are probably the main limiting factor for reproduction of lacustrine brown trout, whereas structural variability of the Obernach meets the habitat requirements of both spawners and juveniles.
  • 3.
    Spawning site quality was suitable for trout, as indicated by stream substratum texture and high exchange rates between free-flowing water and the interstitial zone in physico-chemical parameters (redox potential, dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature and conductivity).
  • 4.
    Analyses of fish community structure revealed dominance of lithophilic species, in particular of riverine brown trout (Salmo trutta). Its density and intact demographic population structure suggest that spawning and juvenile habitat quality for salmonids is not limiting. Recapture of stocked lacustrine trout juveniles also indicates habitat suitability for the juvenile stage.
  • 5.
    In conclusion, the results show that the methodology used in this study is suitable for the identification of life-stage specific habitat deficiencies in lacustrine brown trout and other fish species. Availability of habitat data throughout the species' distribution range is a first crucial step for the development of an effective recovery plan. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.