Oneida Lake: Long-term Dynamics of a Managed Ecosystem and Its Fishery

Chapter 23: Fish Community Responses to Environmental Perturbations: Comparisons of Oneida Lake with Three Bays of the Great Lakes

Dean G. Fitzgerald, Lars G. Rudstam, John M. Casselman, Brian J. Irwin, David G. Fielder, Tammie J. Paoli, and Clifford E. Kraft


Fish communities are products of ecosystem processes and their history, and ecosystems change with time. In the Oneida Lake ecosystem, such changes have been documented over the last few centuries. Historically important species such as Cisco Coregonus artedii, American Eel Anguilla rostrata, and Atlantic Salmon Salmo salar declined during the mid-1800s due in part to habitat modification and dams that prevented migration to Lake Ontario via the Oneida and Oswego Rivers (Jackson Chapter 3). In the last 100 years or so, the lake has been dominated by percids (Walleye Sander vitreus and Yellow Perch Perca flavescens). During this time period, Oneida Lake has undergone substantial ecological changes and many chapters in this book along with numerous publications have assessed the response of fishes to these perturbations and associated ecosystem changes. Such changes include cultural eutrophication and subsequent oligotrophication, the invasion by nonnative species like dreissenid mussels (zebra mussel and quagga mussel Dreissena polymorpha and D. rostriformis bugensis) and White Perch Morone americana, increased water temperatures due to climate change, and the population expansions of native species such as double-crested cormorants Phalacrocorax auritus and Gizzard Shad Dorosoma cepedianum. But with only one Oneida Lake, it would be insightful to compare fish community changes in Oneida Lake with data sets from other ecosystems with abundant Walleye and Yellow Perch populations. Such data sets exist from several large, shallow bays of the Great Lakes and were initiated as part of the 1972 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) to evaluate hypotheses regarding the response of ecosystems to GLWQA.