ESR 31:271-277 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00774

Species-specific effects of turbidity on the physiology of imperiled blackline shiners Notropis spp. in the Laurentian Great Lakes

Suzanne M. Gray1,4,*, Laura H. McDonnell1, Nicholas E. Mandrak2, Lauren J. Chapman1,3 

1Department of Biology, McGill University, Montreal, QC H3A 1B1, Canada
2Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, ON M1C 1A4, Canada
3Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, NY 10460, USA
4Present address: School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Increased sedimentary turbidity associated with human activities is often cited as a key stressor contributing to the decline of fishes globally. The mechanisms underlying negative effects of turbidity on fish populations have been well documented, including effects on behavior (e.g. visual impairment) and/or respiratory function (e.g. clogging of the gills); however, the long-term physiological consequences are less well understood. The decline or disappearance of several blackline shiners Notropis spp. in the Laurentian Great Lakes has been associated with increased turbidity. Here, we used non-lethal physiological methods to assess the responses of 3 blackline shiners under varying degrees of threat in Canada (Species at Risk Act; pugnose shiner N. anogenus: endangered; bridle shiner N. bifrenatus: special concern; blacknose shiner N. heterolepis: common) to increased turbidity. Fish were exposed for 3 to 6 mo to continuous low levels of turbidity (~7 nephelometric turbidity units, NTU). To test for effects on respiratory function, we measured both resting metabolic rate (RMR) and critical oxygen tension (the oxygen partial pressure at which the RMR of fish declines). No change in RMR was detected across species or in clear versus turbid treatments. However, critical oxygen tensions were negatively affected by long-term exposure to low levels of sedimentary turbidity in the 2 imperiled species, viz. pugnose and bridle shiner, but not in the more common blacknose shiner. Variation in effects of turbidity on respiratory performance suggests differential sensitivity to turbidity, which may contribute to the current conservation status of the 3 species.


KEY WORDS: Sedimentary turbidity · Critical oxygen tension · Resting metabolic rate · Conservation physiology · Pugnose shiner · Bridle shiner · Blacknose shiner


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Cite this article as: Gray SM, McDonnell LH, Mandrak NE, Chapman LJ (2016) Species-specific effects of turbidity on the physiology of imperiled blackline shiners Notropis spp. in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Endang Species Res 31:271-277. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00774

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