Variation in native micro-predator abundance explains recruitment of a mobile invasive fish, the common carp, in a naturally unstable environment
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Why certain species of fish become invasive is poorly understood and a key obstacle to restoring many of the world’s ecosystems. In this study we tested whether variation in biotic resistance exerted by native predators might explain the reproductive success of the common carp, a large and fecund invasive species that typically spawns in outlying and unstable shallow habitat. An initial three-year study of the relative abundance of young-of-year (YOY) carp in interconnected lakes in the Upper Mississippi River Basin discovered that YOY carp are only found in shallow waters that experience winter hypoxia (winterkill) and have low densities of the native egg-predators that otherwise dominate these locales. A follow-up experiment tested if native fish predation on carp eggs could explain this distribution. It found that while carp eggs survived in winterkill lakes, they only survived in non-winterkill lakes when protected by a mesh that excluded fish. Large numbers of carp eggs were found in the stomachs of native fish inhabiting lakes that did not winterkill. We conclude that common carp, and likely many other highly mobile and fecund invasive fish, have evolved life histories to avoid egg predators and can become invasive when they are absent.
KeywordsBiological invasion Common carp Cyprinus carpio Biotic resistance Egg predation Bluegill sunfish Lepomis macrochirus Winterkill Hypoxia Integrated pest management
This study was funded by the Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District, and the Ramsey Washington Metro Watershed District. Brett Miller, Mary Headrick, Brian Moe and Jordan Wein helped with collecting field samples. Daryl Ellison and Paul Diedrich (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources) helped with study site selection and sampling techniques. David Andow and Bruce Vondracek (University of Minnesota) provided many useful comments that improved the manuscript. Dr. Sanford Weisberg (University of Minnesota) assisted with statistical analyses.
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