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Substrate and Zebra Mussels: Controls and Impacts on Fish Reproductive Habitat-Western Basin Reefs

The principle objective of the proposed project is to map and quantify substrate characteristics over six reefs within the western basin of Lake Erie and to assess how the physical and biological structure of the reefs might influence the quality of fish reproductive habitat We propose to: 1) develop detailed substrate maps of Locust Point, Cone, Toussaint, Crib, Round, and Niagara Reefs; 2) determine patterns of zebra mussel coverage of substrate surfaces within and among the six reefs; 3) assess the possible effects of variation in substrate on zebra mussel coverage and habitat use by walleyes for spawning and reproduction; and 4) assess potential impacts of the exotic round goby on zebra mussels and habitat use by walleye for spawning and reproduction. Sidescan sonar data will be used to map and identify categories of substrate for more detailed biological study. Substrate information and biological data will be collected along established transects by SCUBA divers and an ROV to examine zebra mussel and fish (round goby) distributions and to assess utilization of spawning and reproductive habitat by walleye. Walleye egg samples will be collected from different substrates using an egg suction device to determine egg densities and reproductive habitat utilization. Geographically referenced sidescan mosaics will be used to display information on substrate, zebra mussel coverage, and walleye reproductive habitat utilization. During the first year, our focus will be to document zebra mussel distribution patterns and walleye spawning and reproductive habitat within and among substrate types found on the Locust Point Reef. Substrate character and zebra mussel coverage over five other western basin reefs will be mapped using sidescan data. In the second year of the study, selected substrate sites will be sampled to assess spatial and temporal variations in zebra mussel coverage, presence (or absence) of round gobies, and walleye habitat usage. Substrate heterogeneity within and among reefs can be expected to play an important role in fish reproductive success. In particular, a reefs physical characteristics should strongly affect walleye egg retention and viability. The results of this research should enhance our understanding of how fish respond to heterogeneity in the physical environment, and help resource managers understand the relationship between habitat usage, habitat availability, and recruitment.

In progress
Start Date
End Date
Scope of Study
Field Investigation
Scale of Phenomena
Impact of Pollutants
Exotic Species
Natural Ecological Processes
Resource Management
Lake Basin Connecting Channels
Lake Erie
State Province

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