Seasonal changes in stream salmonid population densities in two tributaries of a boreal river in northern Japan
Temporal variation in foraging group structure of a fish assemblage was examined in a flood-prone stream in southern Hokkaido, Japan. Foraging behaviour was observed underwater for four species which inhabit the water column: ayu, Plecoglossus altivelis, white-spotted charr, Salvelinus leucomaenis, masu salmon, Oncorhynchus masou, and Japanese dace, Tribolodon hakonensis, with each species being categorized into five size classes (species-size group; SSG). Based on foraging behaviour, each SSG of the fish assemblage was classified into one of four foraging groups: algae grazers, drift foragers, benthos-drift foragers, and omnivores, defined as SSG exhibiting similar foraging behaviour. All size classes of ayu, and of charr and salmon were categorized as algae grazers and drift foragers, respectively, throughout the study period. In contrast, size classes of dace were categorized as drift foragers, benthos-drift foragers, or omnivores with the same size classes often assigned to different foraging groups from month to month. Digestive tract contents of the fishes in the four foraging groups reflected their observed foraging behaviour, and foraging groups were therefore regarded as representing trophic groups. Abundance and membership of each foraging group varied in accordance with changes in abundance of SSG due to their growth, immigration, emigration, and/or mortality. Moreover, due to numerical dominance within the assemblage, plasticity in foraging behaviour of small- and medium-sized dace also played a key role in determining variability in the foraging group structure. Relative frequencies of two types of foraging behaviour, algae nipping and benthos foraging, of the small-sized dace were significantly correlated with the level of each resource, whereas no significant relationship was detected between foraging frequencies of the medium-sized dace and either resource. Fluctuations in foraging group structure within this assemblage occurred through niche shifts of some component members and by changes in SSG composition.