EPSCoR - Alaska Adapting to Changing Environments
Trophic pathways supporting Arctic Grayling in a small stream on the Arctic Coastal Plain, Alaska
Arctic Grayling (Thymallus arcticus) are widely distributed on the Arctic Coastal Plain (ACP) of Alaska, and are one of the few upper level consumers in streams, but the trophic pathways and food resources supporting these fish are unknown. Grayling migrate each summer into small beaded streams, which are common across the landscape on the ACP, and appear to be crucial foraging grounds for these and other fishes. I investigated prey resources supporting different size classes of grayling in a beaded stream, Crea Creek, where petroleum development is being planned. The specific objectives were to measure terrestrial prey subsidies entering the stream, quantify prey ingested by Arctic Grayling and Ninespine Stickleback (Pungitius pungitius), determine if riparian plant species affect the quantity of terrestrial invertebrates ingested by grayling, and determine if prey size and type ingested were a function of predator size. Results indicated that small grayling (< 15 cm fork length (FL)) consumed mostly aquatic invertebrates (caddisflies, midges, and blackflies) early in the summer, and increasing quantities of terrestrial invertebrates (wasps, beetles, and spiders) later in summer, while larger fish (> 15 cm FL) foraged most heavily on stickleback. Riparian plant species influenced the quantity of terrestrial invertebrates entering the stream, however these differences were not reflected in fish diets. This study showed that grayling can be both highly insectivorous and piscivorous, depending upon fish size class, and that both aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, and especially stickleback, are the main prey of grayling. These results highlight the importance of beaded streams as summer foraging habitats for grayling. Understanding prey flow dynamics in these poorly studied aquatic habitats, prior to further petroleum development and simultaneous climate change, establishes essential baseline information to interpret if and how these freshwater ecosystems may respond to a changing Arctic environment.
Data and Resources
Data Types: Report