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Effects of benthivorous fish on biogeochemical processes in lake sediments

  • Anders Persson
  • J M Svensson
Publishing year: 2006
Language: English
Pages: 1298-1309
Publication/Series: Freshwater Biology
Volume: 51
Issue: 7
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

1. Studies of aquatic environments have shown that community organisation may strongly affect ecosystem functioning. One common phenomenon is a change in nutrient level following a shift in the fish community composition. Although several hypotheses have been suggested, there is no consensus on which mechanisms are involved. Our study evaluated indirect effects of benthivorous fish on the biogeochemical processes at the sediment-water interface separately from direct effects caused by nutrient excretion or sediment resuspension.

2. We assigned field enclosures to three treatments representing typical pond communities; without fish, addition of approximately 10 small tench or addition of one large bream. After one summer, we monitored the water chemistry, benthic invertebrates and periphyton in the enclosures and sampled sediment cores for laboratory analysis of biochemical process rates (oxygen, phosphorus and nitrogen exchange between sediment and water, and denitrification rate).

3. Fish had strong negative effects on benthic invertebrates, but weaker effects on periphyton, organic content and porosity of the sediment. Moreover, there were significant positive fish effects on both phosphorus and nitrogen concentrations in the water. However, there were no general treatment effects on sediment processes that could explain the treatment effects on water chemistry in the enclosures.

4. Hence, overall treatment effects attenuated along the chain of interactions. We conclude that the observed effect of benthic fish on water chemistry was probably because of direct effects on nutrient excretion or resuspension of sediment. The similarity between bream and tench treatments suggests large niche complementarity despite their different habitat preferences.


  • Ecology
  • benthic macroinvertebrates
  • benthivorous fish
  • biogeochemical
  • processes
  • bream Abramis brama
  • denitrification
  • nitrogen
  • phosphorus
  • tench
  • trophic cascade


  • ISSN: 0046-5070
Anders Persson
E-mail: anders [dot] persson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Senior lecturer

Aquatic ecology

+46 46 222 83 67