Assessment and conservation of gwyniad (Coregonus lavaretus (L.)) in Llyn Tegid, U.K.: persistence in the face of eutrophication, water level fluctuations and ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernuus (L.)) introduction
Thomas, Rhian; Fletcher, Janice M.; James, J. Ben; Winfield, Ian J.
The whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus (L.)) exists as only one native population in Wales, U. K., where it occurs in Llyn Tegid and is known as the gwyniad. This population is of national conservation importance but faces a number of environmental threats. Although eutrophication has not directly impacted on gwyniad habitat availability, associated low oxygen levels in the hypolimnion periodically approach its tolerance limit of 2 mg L-1. Anthropogenic water level fluctuations and a 1980 introduction of ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernuus (L.)), a predator of gwyniad eggs, also pose potential threats. Despite these concerns, gill-netting surveys in the 1960s, 1991, 2003 and 2008 have shown no marked changes in gwyniad population biology in terms of length, weight and condition factor. Furthermore, hydroacoustic surveys from 2003 to 2009 have shown an increasing trend in total fish abundance. On the basis of gill-netting data, this increase is shared by gwyniad which in July 2009 reached a population density of 2,302. 2 fish ha-1 (lower and upper 95% confidence limits of 1,795. 8 and 2,951. 4 fish ha-1, respectively). Nevertheless, a precautionary approach has been adopted to the conservation of this unique population and from 2005 to 2007 a translocation programme transferred 81,300 eggs from 366 male and 50 female gwyniad to the nearby water body of Llyn Arenig Fawr. Monitored hatching rates were generally high and in 2009 a hydroacoustic and gill-netting survey revealed that although the fish community of this site was sparse (1.7 fish ha-1, with lower and upper 95% confidence limits of 0. 8 and 3.8 fish ha-1), it now included adult gwyniad. Although it does not yet confirm successful translocation, this observation does demonstrate that the gwyniad is able to reach sexual maturity in the recipient site.