Evaluation of Trophic Niche Overlap between Native Fishes and Young-of-the-Year Common Carp

By Howell, Jessica M.; Weber, Michael J. et al. | The American Midland Naturalist, July 2014 | Go to article overview

Evaluation of Trophic Niche Overlap between Native Fishes and Young-of-the-Year Common Carp


Howell, Jessica M., Weber, Michael J., Brown, Michael L., The American Midland Naturalist


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Introduction

Translocation of species outside of their native range often occurs without an adequate understanding of the implications of such introductions on native fauna. Introductions and invasions of nonnative species can have unintended consequences on invaded ecosystems and native species through the transformation of basic ecosystem structure and function (Parker et al., 1999). One of the most detrimental and widespread invasive species is common carp Cyprinus carpió (Lowe et al, 1994). Carp were widely distributed across much of the United States during the 1800s for recreational and food purposes (Panek, 1987). Historically, such introductions were perceived as beneficial but have since resulted in numerous negative effects within invaded ecosystems (Weber and Brown, 2009). Carp populations often shift shallow aquatic ecosystems from the clearto turbid-water stable state by increasing turbidity, nutrient availability, and noxious algal blooms and reducing aquatic macrophytes and benthic invertebrates (Parkos et al, 2003; Koehn, 2004; Weber and Brown, 2009). Perturbations induced by carp on physicochemical variables and lower trophic levels may extend to higher trophic levels, resulting in reduced growth, survival, and abundance of native fishes (Wolfe et al, 2009; Jackson et al, 2010; Weber and Brown, 2011). Adult carp have been associated with declines in abundances of native fish populations under various abiotic conditions (Weber and Brown, 2011) but little is known about interactions with age-0 carp.

Invasive fishes often occupy ecological niches similar to native fishes, with the possibility for resource overlap and competitive interactions that may result in native fish population declines. Prey resource overlap may be particularly important during early life stages where prey availability can regulate foraging success, growth, and survival (Graeb el at., 2004). Early life stages of many native fishes initially rely on zooplankton prey (Mittelbach, 1984; Pope and Willis, 1998) before undergoing ontogenetic diet shifts to feed on larger invertebrates or fishes (Fisher and Willis, 1997; Graeb et al, 2004). High densities of some larval and juvenile omnivorous fish can greatly reduce prey resources, affecting growth and survival of cooccurring species (Stein et al, 1995). Carp are highly fecund (Sivakumaran et al, 2003; Weber and Brown, 2012b) with protracted spawning that can translate into a high juvenile abundance (Phelps et al, 2008; Weber and Brown, 2013b). Similar to native fishes, early life stages of carp are zooplanktivorous and later undergo an ontogenetic diet shift to benthic invertebrates (Britton et al, 2007; Rahman et al, 2009; Weber and Brown, 2013a). High densities of zooplanktivorous carp can reduce zooplankton densities (Meijer et al, 1990; Kahn et al, 2003) and thus may limit prey availability for other fishes, potentially resulting in interspecific competition (Tonkin et al, 2006).

Comparing how invasive and native species use resources can help predict the extent and potential consequences of their interactions. Biologists need a better understanding of carp resource utilization and niche overlap with native fishes (Carey and Wahl, 2010), specifically during early life stages, a critical period when fishes are most abundant and overlap is likely to occur. Our objectives were to evaluate fish abundance, prey resource use, and diet overlap between age-0 carp and native fish during mid to late summer. We first compared relative abundances of age-0 carp and four common native fishes: age-0 bluegill Lepomis macrochirus, black crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus, and yellow perch Perea flavescens and adult orangespotted sunfish Lepomis humilis. These species were chosen because they are the most abundant species regionally that cooccur with carp populations (St. Sauver el al, 2009), they represent ecologically and economically important fishes for the region, and their populations may be negatively affected by carp (Weber and Brown, 2011). …

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