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Indirect facilitation of an anuran invasion by non-native fishes

January 1, 2003

Positive interactions among non-native species could greatly exacerbate the problem of invasions, but are poorly studied and our knowledge of their occurrence is mostly limited to plant-pollinator and dispersal interactions. We found that invasion of bullfrogs is facilitated by the presence of co-evolved non-native fish, which increase tadpole survival by reducing predatory macroinvertebrate densities. Native dragonfly nymphs in Oregon, USA caused zero survival of bullfrog tadpoles in a replicated field experiment unless a non-native sunfish was present to reduce dragonfly density. This pattern was also evident in pond surveys where the best predictors of bullfrog abundance were the presence of non-native fish and bathymetry. This is the first experimental evidence of facilitation between two non-native vertebrates and supports the invasional meltdown hypothesis. Such positive interactions among non-native species have the potential to disrupt ecosystems by amplifying invasions, and our study shows they can occur via indirect mechanisms.