Sudbury research highlights link between forest and fish stocks

Results of study at Vale Living With Lakes published in ‘Nature Communications’

July 7, 2014 – Environmental research conducted at the Vale Living With Lakes Centre of Laurentian University is the focus of an article published in the international research journal Nature Communications.  Lead author Dr. Andrew Tanentzap of University of Cambridge, U.K., carried out studies on acquatic food chains in Daisy Lake, in Sudbury, Ontario.  The findings of the research point to important linkages between healthy forests in boreal ecosystems and the viability of fish stocks in those freshwater lakes. 


The study found that young yellow perch in Daisy Lake were better-nourished in areas where forest debris washed into the lake, supplementing the aquatic food chain.  In parts of the lake with less surrounding vegetation, the fish had fewer microscopic zooplankton to feed upon and were smaller in size.


“We found fish with almost 70% of their biomass made from carbon that came from trees and leaves, instead of aquatic food chain sources,” said Dr. Tanentzap.  “Essentially, the young fish in lake areas with scant forest cover were smaller, and thus less likely to breed and survive.  Those in areas with abundant forest cover were definitely a more robust population.”


A Banting Fellow at the Living With Lakes Centre during much of his research, Dr. Tanentzap and his colleagues from the University of Cambridge will return to Sudbury this fall for a 3-year continuation of the project.


“We are delighted to see Andrew’s work highlighted in Nature Communications,” said Dr. John Gunn, Director of the Living with Lakes Centre and Canada Research Chair for Stressed Aquatic Systems.  “Sudbury’s unique landscape is a globally significant research laboratory, and the Cambridge project shows how our recovered waterways create real benefits in the downstream receiving waters.” 


The Living With Lakes Centre is a centre of excellence for the study of stressed and recovering freshwater ecosystems, and has been the site of numerous research projects in environmental and natural resource management studies. 


Dr. Tanentzap said that while the team’s research focussed on boreal regions, the findings are likely to bear out globally, in all regions that have experienced forest loss.  “The degradation and destruction of forest lands have a direct impact on aquatic food chains.  It matters because freshwater fish make up more than 6% of humans’ protein supplies and are their primary source of omega-3 fatty acids,” he said.