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Invasive carp and prey community composition disrupt trophic cascades in eutrophic ponds

Abstract

The role of trophic cascades in structuring freshwater communities has been extensively studied. Most of this work, however, has been conducted in oligotrophic northern lakes that contain highly vulnerable cyprinid prey: aquatic communities where trophic interactions are likely to be stronger than in many other systems. Fewer studies have been conducted in eutrophic systems or have examined the bottom-up effects of benthivorous fishes, and none have directly compared these effects to those of piscivores on ecosystem structure and function. We conducted enclosure experiments in eutrophic ponds to examine trophic effects of invasive benthivores (common carp—Cyprinus carpio L.), native piscivores (largemouth bass—Micropterus salmoides [Lacepède]), and their interactions with common centrarchid prey with well-developed anti-predatory behaviors (age-1 bluegill—Lepomis macrochirus Rafinesque and young-of-year largemouth bass). At the end of the 60-day experiment, common carp had strong bottom-up effects that increased total phosphorus and turbidity while decreasing chlorophyll a biomass and macrophyte cover that resulted in decreased macroinvertebrate biomass and also decreased growth in both juvenile largemouth bass and bluegill. Piscivorous largemouth bass, however, did not affect the survival of either planktivorous juvenile largemouth bass or bluegill. Growth of juvenile largemouth bass was also not affected, but juvenile bluegill growth was significantly diminished, possibly due to nonconsumptive effects of predation. Our results suggest that, in a centrarchid-dominated eutrophic system, top-down effects of predators are overwhelmed by common carp-mediated bottom-up effects. These bottom-up effects strongly affected multiple trophic levels, thus altering aquatic community structure and function.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation, the Illinois Natural History Survey, and the University of Illinois for funding. Comments from the Aquatic Ecology Discussion Group of the Kaskaskia Biological Station and two anonymous reviewers improved this manuscript. A. Schirmer, A. Daigle, K. Pitts, C. Hoeman, and A. Young assisted with field experiments, laboratory processing, and data analysis.

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Wahl, D.H., Wolfe, M.D., Santucci, V.J. et al. Invasive carp and prey community composition disrupt trophic cascades in eutrophic ponds. Hydrobiologia 678, 49–63 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-011-0820-3

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Keywords

  • Largemouth bass
  • Bluegill
  • Common carp
  • Top-down
  • Bottom-up
  • Nonconsumptive predation