The impact of an introduced predator on a threatened galaxiid fish is reduced by the availability of complex habitats
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Stuart-Smith, RD and Stuart-Smith, JF and White, RWG and Barmuta, LA, The impact of an introduced predator on a threatened galaxiid fish is reduced by the availability of complex habitats, Freshwater Biology, 52, (8) pp. 1555-1563. ISSN 0046-5070 (2007) [Refereed Article]
1. The availability of complex habitats such as macrophytes may be vital in determining the outcomes of interactions between introduced predators and native prey. Introduced brown trout (Salmo trutta) have impacted numerous small native freshwater fishes in the southern hemisphere, but the potential role of complex habitats in determining the direct outcomes of brown trout - native fish interactions has not been experimentally evaluated. 2. An in-lake enclosure experiment was used to evaluate the importance of structurally complex habitats in affecting the direct impacts of brown trout on a threatened galaxiid fish. Five Galaxias auratus and a single brown trout were added to enclosures containing one of three different habitat types (artificial macrophytes, rocks and bare silt substrate). The experiment also had control enclosures without brown trout. Habitat-dependence of predation risk was assessed by analysis of G. auratus losses to predation, and stomach contents of remaining fish were analysed to determine if brown trout directly affect the feeding of G. auratus and whether this is also habitat-dependent. 3. Predation risk of G. auratus differed significantly between habitat types, with the highest mortality in enclosures with only bare silt substrate and the lowest in enclosures containing artificial macrophytes. This result highlights the importance of availability of complex habitats for trout - native fish interactions and suggests that increasing habitat degradation and loss in fresh waters may exacerbate the direct impacts of introduced predators. 4. Stomach contents analyses were restricted to fish in enclosures with artificial macrophytes and rocks, as most fish were consumed in enclosures with brown trout and only bare silt substrate. These analyses suggest that brown trout do not directly affect the feeding of G. auratus in complex habitats, but it is still unknown whether its feeding is reduced if complex habitats are unavailable. © 2007 The Authors.
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