Globally, lake fish communities are being subjected to a range of scale-dependent anthropogenic pressures, from climate change to eutrophication, and from overexploitation to species introductions. As a consequence, the composition of these communities is being reshuffled, in most cases leading to a surge in taxonomic similarity at the regional scale termed homogenization. The drivers of homogenization remain unclear, which may be a reflection of interactions between various environmental changes. In this study, we investigate two potential drivers of the recent changes in the composition of freshwater fish communities: recreational fishing and climate change. Our results, derived from 524 lakes of Ontario, Canada sampled in two periods (1965–1982 and 2008–2012), demonstrate that the main contributors to homogenization are the dispersal of gamefish species, most of which are large predators. Alternative explanations relating to lake habitat (e.g., area, phosphorus) or variations in climate have limited explanatory power. Our analysis suggests that human-assisted migration is the primary driver of the observed compositional shifts, homogenizing freshwater fish community among Ontario lakes and generating food webs dominated by gamefish species.

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Global Change Biology
Department of Biology

Cazelles, K. (Kevin), Bartley, T. (Timothy), Guzzo, M.M. (Matthew M.), Brice, M.-H. (Marie-Hélène), MacDougall, A.S. (Andrew S.), Bennett, J.R, … McCann, K.S. (Kevin S.). (2019). Homogenization of freshwater lakes: Recent compositional shifts in fish communities are explained by gamefish movement and not climate change. Global Change Biology. doi:10.1111/gcb.14829