Comparing food-web impacts of a native invertebrate and an invasive fish as predators in small floodplain wetlands
Gambusia holbrooki is an invasive predatory poeciliid fish in wetlands of south-eastern Australia, where it coexists with the native waterbug Anisops thienemanni (Notonectidae). Gambusia has been shown to produce trophic cascades, leading to increased algal biomass following invasion, whereas these effects relative to the often-dominant invertebrate predator Anisops are unknown. Given its flexible diet, we predicted that Gambusia would feed more broadly than Anisops, thereby reducing the abundance of zooplankton grazers, and increasing chlorophyll a. We tested this hypothesis in experimental 110-L wetland mesocosms, using Gambusia and Anisops alone and in combination, in addition to no-predator treatments. We ran two experiments lasting 91 and 35 days, respectively. Both fish and macroinvertebrates generated weak trophic cascades, resulting in minor increases in chlorophyll a above concentrations in control treatments. Gambusia, in lowering total zooplankton abundances, triggered a larger, although still relatively small, algal response relative to Anisops. Impacts of both predators on dominant invertebrate grazers (e.g. Simocephalus spp., copepod nauplii) were similar, although Anisops was associated with an increase in ostracod (Newnhamia sp.) numbers. The similar trophic role of the two predators on algae was unexpected, given their different effects on planktonic communities and their very different taxonomic positions and zoogeographic origins.
Marine & Freshwater Research
Invasive Species Ecology