Spatial and Temporal Variation in Age Distribution and Growth of Lake Michigan Burgot, Lota lota lacustsris, and Potential Effects of Climate Change
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Lake Michigan has experienced many changes in its ecosystem that have altered the original environment of the native fish species. The study of burbot (Lot a Iota lacustris) is necessary to better understand the failed reintroduction strategies of lake trout (Salve linus namaycush) and other ecological processes within Lake Michigan. In this study I focused on the historical changes seen in burbot distribution and health between the years of 1996 and 2012 in the lake. In recent years there has been a change in the regional age distribution of burbot, possibly related to climate change. To determine the spatial variation and distribution of age between three regions of Lake Michigan, I aged otolith structures. Additionally, I used various analyses for conditional or health interpretation of the fish. I found the mid had the youngest, most robust fish and the south had the oldest fish of all three regions. The northern region held the unhealthiest fish based on size. Previous studies have shown that water temperature acclimation plays a role in the migration of burbot indicating their sensitivity to external environmental changes. These results suggest potential environmental stresses that have perturbed the population in southern Lake Michigan through increased water temperatures. The change in climate may have future implications for the distribution and population of the burbot as well as other species within the lake. Further, these changes may cause ecological loss and native species depletion in the Great Lakes if ignored.