Feeling the Squeeze: Adult Run Size and Habitat Availability Limit Juvenile River Herring Densities in Lakes

Matthew T. Devine, Julianne Rosset, Allison H. Roy, Benjamin I. Gahagan, Michael P. Armstrong, Andrew R. Whiteley, Adrian Jordaan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Maximum densities of juvenile river herring (Alewife Alosa pseudoharengus and Blueback Herring A. aestivalis) vary among freshwater lakes, likely due to densities of adult spawners. Differences in habitat availability and lake water quality may also contribute to variation in juvenile river herring productivity between populations, yet these relationships have not been tested across a large geographic scope. In this study we investigated relationships between juvenile river herring densities and (1) spawning adult river herring densities, (2) lake habitat availability, and (3) lake water quality in 29 freshwater lakes in the northeastern USA. Purse seines were used at night to sample juvenile river herring monthly in June–August 2014 and 2015, with concurrent collection of lake-specific physical (e.g., lake surface area, mean depth, depth to thermocline), chemical (e.g., nitrogen, phosphorus, dissolved organic carbon [DOC]), and biological (chlorophyll a, adult spawning density) data. Spawning adult density (number of adults per surface area of lake) explained 66.6% of the variation in juvenile densities using a generalized additive model. Juvenile densities increased with increasing adult density, peaking at roughly 1,000 adults/ha, and then declined at higher adult densities, suggesting a limit to carrying capacity in juvenile production. Linear mixed-effects models revealed that differences in water quality and habitat across lakes explained additional variation in juvenile densities. Specifically, DOC was negatively related to juvenile densities, suggesting that DOC limits the amount of suitable, well-oxygenated epilimnion habitat available to juvenile river herring in late summer. Our results can be used to help understand expected juvenile production based on adult density within a lake, to inform expectations about juvenile growth and survival, and to understand the mechanisms for how changes in habitat availability and water quality affect river herring populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-221
Number of pages15
JournalTransactions of the American Fisheries Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2021


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