Shoreline urbanization reduces terrestrial insect subsidies to fishes in North American lakes


  • Tessa B. Francis,

  • Daniel E. Schindler

T. B. Francis ( and D. E. Schindler, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Seattle, Univ. of Washington, WA 98195-5020, USA. Present address for TBF: Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, 2725 Montlake Boulevard East, Seattle, WA 98112 USA.


Despite growing recognition of the energetic connections between aquatic and riparian habitats of streams and lakes, there have been few efforts to quantify the importance of terrestrial insect subsidies to fish in lakes. Further, it is unclear whether lakeshore urbanization alters the magnitude of these fluxes. Because lakeshore development has been found to be negatively correlated with riparian vegetation that serves as habitat for terrestrial invertebrates, we expected that shoreline urbanization would reduce the prevalence of terrestrial invertebrates in fish diets. We quantified the effects of lakeshore urbanization on terrestrial insect subsidies to fish at three scales: a focused comparison of annual patterns in four lakes in the Pacific Northwest, a one-time field survey of 28 Pacific Northwest lakes, and a literature survey of 24 North American lakes. At all geographical scales, terrestrial invertebrate subsidies to fish were negatively correlated with shoreline development. Terrestrial insects comprised up to 100% of fish diet mass in undeveloped lakes, versus an average of 2% of fish diet mass in developed lakes. Trout, Oncorhynchus spp., in undeveloped lakes had an average of 50% greater daily energy intake, up to 50% of which was represented by terrestrial prey. Temporal variability of the terrestrial subsidy suggests that these inputs are distinctly pulsed, and this subsidy is absent or temporally rare in undeveloped lakes.