Science & Technology
; Life Sciences & Biomedicine
Changes in mean trophic level (MTL) of catches have been widely used to reflect the impact of industrial fisheries on aquatic ecosystems because this measure represents the relative abundance of fished species across the trophic level spectrum. In this study, fisheries data from six important freshwater lakes at the middle-lower Yangtze River and Huaihe River reach of Southern China from 1949 to 2009 were used to evaluate changes in catch MTL. After fishery markets opened at 1985, fish catches increased significantly in all the lakes. Lakes Poyang and Dongting, which were dominated by omnivores and connected to the Yangtze River, showed no significant change in catch MTL before and after 1985. Catch MTL in lakes Taihu and Hongze increased significantly due to an increase in the proportion of pelagic zooplanktivorous. Catches in Lake Chaohu were dominated by zooplankton-feeding lake anchovy, Coilia ectenes Temminck & Schlegel and icefish, Neosalanx taihuensis Chen, while Lake Donghu was dominated by phytoplanktivorous carps. Due to low biodiversity, catch MTL of these two lakes showed no significant change before and after 1985. Both fisheries-based and human activities-based drivers influenced the structure and catch MTL of fisheries in Chinese freshwater lakes.