The distribution of an invasive fish species is highly affected by the presence of native fish species: evidence based on species distribution modelling
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- Verhelst, P., Boets, P., Van Thuyne, G. et al. Biol Invasions (2016) 18: 427. doi:10.1007/s10530-015-1016-y
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Topmouth gudgeon (Pseudorasbora parva) is one of the most invasive aquatic fish species in Europe and causes adverse effects to ecosystem structure and functioning. Knowledge and understanding of the species’ interactions with the environment and with native fish are important to stop and prevent the further spread of the species. Creating species distribution models is a useful technique to determine which factors influence the occurrence and abundance of a species. We applied three different modelling techniques: general additive models, random forests and fuzzy habitat suitability modelling (FHSM) to assess the habitat suitability of topmouth gudgeon. The former two techniques indicated that the abundance of native fish (i.e. biotic variables) was more important than environmental variables when determining the abundance of topmouth gudgeon in Flanders (Belgium). Bitterling (Rhodeus amarus), stone loach (Barbatula barbatula), three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and predator abundance were selected as the most important biotic variables and implemented in the FHSM to investigate species interactions. Depending on the preferred food source and spawning behaviour, either coexistence or interspecific competition can occur with bitterling, stone loach and three-spined stickleback. In contrast, the presence of predators clearly had a top down effect on topmouth gudgeon abundance. These findings could be applied as a biological control measure and implemented in conservation strategies in order to reduce the abundance of earlier established populations of topmouth gudgeon.