Ecosystem-based management outperforms species-focused stocking for enhancing fish populations

Ecosystem-based management is costly. Therefore, without rigorously showing that it can outperform traditional species-focused alternatives, its broad-scale adoption in conservation is unlikely. We present a large-scale replicated and controlled set of whole-lake experiments in fish conservation (20 lakes monitored over 6 years with more than 150,000 fish sampled) to examine the outcomes of ecosystembased habitat enhancement (coarse woody habitat addition and shallow littoral zone creation) versus a widespread, species-focused alternative that has long dominated fisheries management practice (i.e., fish stocking). Adding coarse woody habitats alone did not, on average, enhance fish abundance, but creating shallow water habitat consistently did, especially for juvenile fish. Species-focused fish stocking completely failed. We provide strong evidence questioning the performance of species-focused conservation actions in aquatic ecosystems and instead recommend ecosystem-based management of key habitats.


Johannes Radinger, Sven Matern, Thomas Klefoth, Fritz Feldhege, Christopher T. Monk, and Robert Arlinghause. Ecosystem-based management outperforms species-focused stocking for enhancing fish populations,” Science, Research: Conservation Ecology, March 2023. DOI: Available:
Copyright © 2023 the authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original US government works.


Johannes Radinger
Sven Matern
Thomas Klefoth
Fritz Feldhege
Christopher T. Monk
Robert Arlinghause