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Recovery of high mountain Alpine lakes after the eradication of introduced brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis using non-chemical methods

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Abstract

Fish stocking is a serious threat to originally fishless mountain lakes. We used non-chemical eradication methods (i.e. gillnetting and electrofishing) in four high mountain lakes in the Gran Paradiso National Park (Western Italian Alps) to eradicate alien brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis. Data of amphibians, macroinvertebrates, zooplankton, chlorophyll-a, nutrient concentrations, and water transparency were used as indicators of the recovery process. All treated lakes were returned to their original fishless condition in spite of their different sizes and habitat complexity, without permanent negative side-effects for native species. Several ecological indicators showed that many impacts of introduced fish can be reversed over a short time period following eradication. The present study adds to a still growing body of specialized literature on the recovery of habitats after the eradication of alien species and provides further evidence that physical eradication methods are effective and can be part of a more general strategy for the conservation of high mountain lake biota.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Michele Ottino and the Gran Paradiso National Park (GPNP) authorities for their commitment to research. Special thanks to the park wardens for their help and hospitality, and to Stefano Malaguti, Giovanni Cecioni, Jean Laurant Jordaney, Andreu Porcar, Gioele Grandi, Geordie Biffoni, Fabio Ribelli, Francesco Buscaglia, Marco Armodi and Federica Manassero for their help during the fieldwork. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Funding and logistic support for this research was provided by the Gran Paradiso National Park within the framework of the LIFE + Project BIOAQUAE (Biodiversity Improvement of Aquatic Alpine Ecosystems; LIFE11 BIO/IT/000020). Further funding was provided by the University of Pavia with the Grant Number 105355 issued to Rocco Tiberti. Permissions for fishing activities were issued by the GPNP (Protocol Number 1798/1013/BB) with the approval of ISPRA Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e Ricerca Ambientale, Protocol Number 0017655 - 29/04/2013).

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Tiberti, R., Bogliani, G., Brighenti, S. et al. Recovery of high mountain Alpine lakes after the eradication of introduced brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis using non-chemical methods. Biol Invasions 21, 875–894 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-018-1867-0

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