Effect of Elodea spp. on Fish Performance Mediated Through Food Web Interactions

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The potential for invasive species introductions in Arctic and Subarctic ecosystems is growing as climate change manifests and human activity increases in high latitudes.

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The aquatic plant Elodea spp. is a potential invader to Arctic and Subarctic ecosystems and is already established at a small suite of locations in Alaska, USA.  The harshness of Subarctic and Arctic climates is not a sufficient impediment in itself to prevent the establishment and spread of Elodea.  Rather, Elodea is predicted to create ecological and economic impacts on Alaskan ecosystems, along with causing safety issues and being a nuisance.  The ecological effects of Elodea have the potential to be severe for aquatic ecosystems resulting from a deterioration in abiotic conditions (e.g., low dissolved oxygen) and changes in habitat structure that alter food web interactions.  Of foremost concern, Elodea can strongly affect anadromous salmon by reducing the quality of spawning habitat and altering prey resources and predator-prey interactions for juveniles.  Research on Elodea in Alaska will help prioritize management efforts for aquatic plant invaders, and can contribute to our understanding of invasion ecology in general by examining an aquatic invasive species in the early stages of the invasion process.

 

An aerial view of McKinley Lake

McKinley Lake, outside of Cordova, Alaska. This is the site of deployment of limnocorrals for an Elodea spp. experiment. 
(Credit: Jeff Conaway, USGS. Public domain.)

Putting together a yellow polygonal floating structure with netting that will hang from the sides to do limnological studies

Constructing a limnocorral at McKinley Lake for Elodea spp. experiment. This experiment is studying the effect of the invasive species Elodea spp. on aquatic ecosystems.
(Credit: Mike Carey, USGS. Public domain.)

 

Scientists moving a complete limnocorral to McKinley Lake

Deployment of a limnocorral at McKinley Lake, near Cordova, Alaska for Elodea spp. experiment. This experiment is studying the effect of the invasive species Elodea spp. on aquatic ecosystems.
(Credit: Mike Carey, USGS. Public domain.)

A completed limnocorral positioned over a bed of Elodea spp.

A completed limnocorral positioned over a bed of Elodea spp.. This experiment is studying the effect of the invasive species Elodea spp. on aquatic ecosystems.
(Credit: Mike Carey, USGS. Public domain.)

Scientist sitting in a boat rinsing a sample from a limnocorral

Mike Carey is rinsing a sample from a limnocorral in McKinley Lake to examine food web effects of Elodea spp.
(Credit: Gordon Reeves, U.S. Forest Service. Public domain.)

A snorkeler sampling inside a limnocorral in McKinley Lake

Elizabeth Camarati (USDA Forest Service) is snorkeling and sampling limnocorrals in McKinley Lake near Cordova, Alaska to examine food web effects of Elodea spp.
​​​​​​​(Credit: Mike Carey, USGS. Public domain.)