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Experimental evidence that ecological effects of an invasive fish are reduced at high densities.

ABSTRACT: Understanding the relationship between invasive species density and ecological impact is a pressing topic in ecology, with implications for environmental management and policy. Although it is widely assumed that invasive species impact will increase with density, theory suggests interspecific competition may diminish at high densities due to increased intraspecific interactions. To test this theory, we experimentally examined intra- and interspecific interactions between a globally invasive fish, round goby (Neogobius melanostomus), and three native species at different round goby densities in a tributary of the Laurentian Great Lakes. Eighteen 2.25 m(2) enclosures were stocked with native fish species at natural abundances, while round gobies were stocked at three different densities: 0 m(-2), 2.7 m(-2), and 10.7 m(-2). After 52 days, native fish growth rate was significantly reduced in the low density goby treatment, while growth in the high density goby treatment mirrored the goby-free treatment for two of three native species. Invertebrate density and gut content weight of native fishes did not differ among treatments. Conversely, gut content weight and growth of round gobies were lower in the high goby density treatment, suggesting interactions between round gobies and native fishes are mediated by interference competition amongst gobies. Our experiment provides evidence that invasive species effects may diminish at high densities, possibly due to increased intraspecific interactions. This is consistent with some ecological theory, and cautions against the assumption that invasive species at moderate densities have low impact.


PROVIDER: S-EPMC3992221 | BioStudies | 2014-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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