The influence of flood cycle and fish predation on invertebrate production on a restored California floodplain

Abstract

Although floodplains are known to be tightly controlled by the flood cycle, we know comparatively little about how flooding influences predators and their consumption of secondary production, particularly in highly seasonal floodplains typical of Mediterranean climates. In this study, we investigate how the seasonal dynamics of a central California floodplain influence the timing and magnitude of fish predation and the abundance and composition of invertebrates. For 3 years (2000–2002), we compared changes in abundances and size distributions of invertebrates through the flood season (January–June) with seasonal changes in the abundance of larval and juvenile fishes. Using diet analysis of fishes and manipulative feeding experiments with fishes in field enclosures, we link specific changes in invertebrate populations directly to feeding preferences of seasonally abundant fish. Early in the flood season prior to March, we found little influence of fish predation, consistent with the near absence of larval and juvenile fishes during this period. Coinciding with the midseason increase in the abundance of larval and juvenile fishes in April, we found significant declines in zooplankton abundance as well as declines in the size of zooplankton consistent with fish feeding preferences. Our results were consistent with results from feeding enclosure experiments that showed that fish rapidly depressed populations of larger cladocerans with much less effect on smaller cladocerans and calanoid copepods. At the end of the flood season, zooplankton abundances rapidly increased, consistent with a switch in the feeding of juvenile fish to aquatic insects and subsequent fish mortality. We also found that zooplankton biomass on the floodplain reached a maximum 2–3 weeks after disconnection with the river. We suggest that floodplain restoration in this region should consider management strategies that would ensure repeated flooding every 2–3 weeks during periods that would best match the peaks in abundance of native fishes.

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Correspondence to Edwin Grosholz.

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Grosholz, E., Gallo, E. The influence of flood cycle and fish predation on invertebrate production on a restored California floodplain. Hydrobiologia 568, 91–109 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-006-0029-z

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Keywords

  • floodplain
  • predation
  • zooplankton
  • benthic invertebrates
  • fishes
  • top–down