A preliminary assessment of the impact of alien rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) on indigenous fishes of the upper Berg River, Western Cape Province, South Africa
Impacts of alien rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) on critically endangered Berg River redfin (Pseudobarbus burgi), Cape kurper (Sandelia capensis) and Cape galaxias (Galaxias zebratus) in the upper Berg River were investigated in terms of predation and spatial interactions. Trout stomach contents revealed that invertebrates dominate trout diet within the study area, whilst only six fish were recovered from 45 stomachs. The apparent low fish predation success of O. mykiss within the stream suggests a smaller impact compared to that of other alien piscivores such as bass (Micropterus spp.). Galaxias zebratus was the only fish species identified as prey, and its conservation status in the river requires further investigation. Snorkelling surveys revealed that rainbow trout co-exist with S. capensis and adult P. burgi within pools on this river. Galaxias zebratus was absent from the pools, while P. burgi juveniles were segregated from rainbow trout along a depth gradient, possibly indicating avoidance behaviour. Sandelia capensis juveniles may avoid predation by hiding under rocks. Rainbow trout probably compete with indigenous fish for food and space in the pools, though this could not be quantified. The impacts of O. mykiss on all indigenous fauna within the river are likely to be density-dependent.