Fish assemblages in deep Italian subalpine lakes: history and present status with an emphasis on non-native species

  • Pietro Volta
  • Erik Jeppesen
  • Paolo Sala
  • Silvia Galafassi
  • Claudio Foglini
  • Cesare Puzzi
  • Ian J. Winfield


We provide a comprehensive overview of the status of fish assemblages in eight Italian subalpine lakes using multiple data sources: historical records, standardised sampling and fishery catch statistics. Thirty-four fish species were recorded, twenty of which are native, seven introduced historically and another seven introduced recently. The number of fish species in individual lakes has increased by between 25 and 65% from 1855 to the present, with the increase being higher in the larger lakes. Non-native species contributed between 4.0 and 71.5% to standardised catches by numbers and between 4.8 and 65.1% by biomass. Roach Rutilus rutilus and pumpkinseed Lepomis gibbosus dominated electrofishing and benthic catches by number, while open-water catches were dominated by the coregonids European whitefish Coregonus lavaretus and gangfish Coregonus macrophthalmus. In terms of biomass, electrofishing catches were dominated by crucian carp Carassius carassius, largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides and wels catfish Silurus glanis, benthic catches were dominated by roach, European whitefish and crucian carp, and open-water catches by coregonids. Commercial fisheries are important ecosystem services provided by subalpine lakes, with their harvests now dominated by non-native species. To deliver effective biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services provision, the prioritisation of targets and interventions of management of non-native species is needed.


Climate change CPUE Gillnet Electrofishing Fish biodiversity 



We would like to thank Regione Piemonte, the Demanio Lacuale of Lake Orta, LIFE+ INHABIT, the International Commission for the Protection of Italian-Swiss Water (CIPAIS) and Regione Lombardia, for providing funds for the extensive fish sampling campaigns in the eight study lakes. Pietro Volta was funded by IttiOrta Project and LIFE15 NAT/IT/000823 IdroLIFE, Claudio Foglini and Paolo Sala were funded by LIFE15 NAT/IT/000823 IdroLIFE. Erik Jeppesen and Ian J. Winfield were supported by MARS (Managing Aquatic ecosystems and water Resources under multiple Stress) funded under the 7th EU Framework Programme, Theme 6 (Environment including Climate Change), Contract No.: 603378 ( EJ was further supported by AU Centre for Water Technology ( Finally, we would like to thank Dr. D.L.Yule and a second anonymous reviewer for their suggestions which greatly helped us to improve the manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNR-Institute of Ecosystem StudyVerbania PallanzaItaly
  2. 2.Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversitySilkeborgDenmark
  3. 3.Sino Danish Centre for Education and ResearchBeijingChina
  4. 4.GRAIA srl – Gestione e Ricerca Ambientale Ittica AcqueVarano BorghiItaly
  5. 5.Lake Ecosystems Group, Centre for Ecology & HydrologyLancaster Environment CentreLancasterUK

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