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Individual, Population, Community, and Ecosystem Consequences of a Fish Invader in New Zealand Streams

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Knowledge of the population biology of invading species will often be necessary to develop effective management procedures and policies. But because invaders can have unexpected indirect effects in food webs, invasion ecologists need to integrate processes at the population level and other ecological levels. I describe a series of coordinated studies in New Zealand streams that address the effect of an exotic fish on individual behavior, population, community, and ecosystem patterns. Such case studies are important as an aid to the formulation of policy about invasions that are especially likely to become problematic. At the individual level, grazing invertebrates showed changes in behavior as a result of the introduction of brown trout ( Salmo trutta), a predator that exerts a very different selection pressure than do native fish. At the population level, trout have replaced nonmigratory galaxiid fish in some streams but not others, and have affected the distributions of crayfish and other large invertebrates. At the community level, trout have suppressed grazing pressure from invertebrates and are thus responsible for enhancing algal biomass and changing algal species composition. Finally, at the ecosystem level, essentially all annual production of invertebrates is consumed by trout ( but not by galaxiids), and algal primary productivity is six times higher in a trout stream. This leads, in turn, to an increased flux of nutrients from the water to the benthic community. The trout invasion has led to strong top-down control of community structure and ecosystem functioning via its effects on individual behavior and population distribution and abundance. Particular physiological, behavioral, and demographic traits of invaders can lead to profound ecosystem consequences that managers need to take into account.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Zoology, University of Otago, 340 Great King Street, Dunedin, New Zealand,

Publication date: February 1, 2003

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