Bythotrephes invasion elevates trophic position of zooplankton and fish: implications for contaminant biomagnification

Abstract

We estimated the effects of Bythotrephes longimanus invasion on the trophic position (TP) of zooplankton communities and lake herring, Coregonus artedi. Temporal changes in lacustrine zooplankton communities following Bythotrephes invasion were contrasted with non-invaded reference lakes, and along with published information on zooplankton and herring diets, formed the basis of estimated changes in TP. The TP of zooplankton communities and lake herring increased significantly following the invasion of Bythotrephes, whereas TP in reference lakes decreased (zooplankton) or did not change significantly (lake herring) over a similar time frame. Elevated TP following Bythotrephes invasion was most prominent in lakes that also supported the glacial relict, Mysis diluvania, suggesting a possible synergistic interaction between these two species on zooplankton community composition. Our analysis indicated that elevated TPs of zooplankton communities and lake herring are not simply due to the presence of Bythotrephes, but rather reflect changes in the zooplankton community induced by Bythotrephes; namely, a major reduction in the proportion of herbivorous cladoceran biomass and a concomitant increase in the proportion of omnivorous and/or predatory copepod biomass in invaded lakes. We demonstrated that increases in TP of the magnitude reported here can lead to substantial increases in fish contaminant concentrations. In light of these results, we discuss potential mechanisms that may be responsible for the disconnect between empirical and theoretical evidence that mid-trophic level species invasions (e.g., Bythotrephes) elevate contaminant burdens of consumer species, and provide testable hypotheses to evaluate these mechanisms.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Bill Taylor for providing zooplankton biomass estimates from Jane Almond’s thesis. Jake La Rose and the Lake Simcoe Fisheries Assessment Unit (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources) provided herring collections and funding for Hg and isotope determinations. Thanks also to Norm Yan for early discussions around this work and for organizing the workshops that ultimately led to this study, Bill Keller for providing access to the historical zooplankton data and Shelley Arnott for financial support and guidance. Scott Peacor and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful and constructive feedback on earlier drafts that improved the manuscript. This work was supported in part by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Graduate scholarships to MDR, ALS and MEP, and by Ontario Graduate and York University graduate scholarships to MEP.

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Correspondence to Michael D. Rennie.

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Rennie, M.D., Strecker, A.L. & Palmer, M.E. Bythotrephes invasion elevates trophic position of zooplankton and fish: implications for contaminant biomagnification. Biol Invasions 13, 2621 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-011-0081-0

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Keywords

  • Cercopagidae
  • Mysis
  • Fish
  • Food web
  • Contaminants
  • Coregonidae