Long-term variations in fish assemblage, macrophyte community, and water quality in Lake Rotoroa (Hamilton Lake)
Law, D. R. M. (2012). Long-term variations in fish assemblage, macrophyte community, and water quality in Lake Rotoroa (Hamilton Lake) (Thesis, Master of Science (MSc)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/6505
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/6505
Lake Rotoroa (37º48’S, 175º16’E) is a small, shallow, polymictic lake located on the western side of Hamilton City. The lake covers an area of 0.54 km2 with a mean depth of 2.4 m, catchment and riparian margins have been significantly modified into a suburban park-like setting. Due to its urban location and recreational value, exotic flora and fauna have been intentionally and unintentionally introduced. This has resulted in fluctuations in water quality and changes in phytoplankton, fish, and macrophyte assemblages over the past 60 years. The overall aim of this thesis is to summarise the fluctuations in water quality and macrophyte community of Lake Rotoroa associated with introduction of exotic species, and to develop a general understanding of the ecosystem response. This study involved collating and analysing available information on fish assemblages, macrophyte community, and water quality in Lake Rotoroa. Data from nine fish surveys undertaken between 1976 and 2012 has been combined. Water quality and macrophyte data was supplied by NIWA, who have undertaken monitoring for Hamilton City Council as part of the national lakes monitoring programme. Fishing methods have varied from gill, trap, and fyke netting between 1976 and 2001, with boat electrofishing surveys between 2003 and 2012. Lake Rotoroa has a relatively diverse freshwater fish fauna, comprising two native and six exotic fish species. The fish assemblage is now dominated by the native shortfin eel (Anguilla australis), European perch (Perca fluviatilis), brown bullhead catfish (Ameiurus nebulosus), and tench (Tinca tinca), with low densities of rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus) and goldfish (Carassius auratus). Fish density and biomass have varied throughout the survey period, to some extent related to the environmental conditions and macrophyte cover. Macrophyte coverage and water quality have undergone considerable changes in the last 30 years, with the collapses of macrophytes stimulating decreases in water quality and increased perch abundance. In 1990, the macrophyte community collapsed with an associated release of nutrients into the water column, causing the lake to become supertrophic. Between 1992 and 2010, water quality improved, with a decrease phosphorus concentrations that apparently limited phytoplankton biomass and improved water clarity. This allowed macrophytes to recolonise the lake to 30% lake bed coverage in 2005 and a consequent improvement from supertrophic to a eutrophic state. Since 2009, the macrophyte community has undergone another collapse, with only a few clumps of native charophytes and Egeria densa present in 2011. The reduction of macrophytes has been accompanied by a decrease in water clarity. The collapse has been attributed to disturbance by grazing from the herbivorous rudd and foraging benthic feeding fish, although other stresses such as decreased water clarity and microcystins may also have had an influence. Further research is needed on the selectivity between passive and active fish capture methods used to allow accurate comparisons between the two methods. This will allow for density and biomass estimates to be made for the passive fishing methods previously used and allow greater insight into changes in abundance of fish populations in Lake Rotoroa.
University of Waikato
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