We used rehabilitation experiments involving the stocking of 2 native sportfish, lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) and smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), in combination with recent fish community surveys, to study the recovery dynamics of fish populations in acid-stressed lakes near Sudbury and Killarney, Ontario, Canada. Population recovery rates differed between the 2 species. Introduced lake trout did poorly in species-rich lakes and exhibited slower growth, lower survival and delayed recruitment. Smallmouth bass, in contrast, readily colonized species-rich lakes. The biomass of natural smallmouth bass recruits increased to reference lake levels within 5 years following water quality recovery and spawning by stocked fish, whereas the biomass of natural lake trout recruits remained well below reference levels 5–15 years after water quality recovery and spawning by adults occurred. We document introductions by anglers of smallmouth bass into acid-damaged lake trout lakes, including some lakes that did not contain bass prior to acidification. This range expansion of a warm-water species (bass) that can alter food-web structure and reduce the growth of a cold-water species (trout), illustrates the potential for the combination of climate warming and species introductions to greatly alter the biological recovery endpoints in acid-stressed lakes.
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Vol. 32 • No. 3