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Pelagic food web interactions in a large invaded ecosystem: Implications for reintroducing a native top predator

February 20, 2023

A series of species introductions, overexploitation, and habitat modification preceded the extirpation of Lahontan cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii henshawi; LCT), historically the apex predator, from Lake Tahoe, California-Nevada, USA. Studies evaluating limiting factors for LCT emphasise the need to elucidate food web interactions, yet important knowledge gaps regarding trophic interactions among nonnative pelagic fishes and invertebrates remain. We quantified the abundance and consumption demand of planktivores with an emphasis on kokanee (Oncorhynchus nerka) and Mysis diluviana. We synthesised this new information with existing information for lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush). The seasonal supply of copepods satisfied the consumption demand of kokanee, but only supported low feeding and growth rates. Kokanee relied heavily on Mysis as prey, an unusual result. Mysis exhibited a high degree of herbivory initially followed by heavier consumption on copepods by larger individuals. Consumption demand for Mysis on copepods exceeded that of kokanee during all seasons. Mysis contributed to over 50% of the annual energy budget for lake trout up to 625 mm. Consumption of Mysis by lake trout and kokanee represented a significant source of mortality when compared to the production of Mysis. Predation on kokanee was sustainable, only involved lake trout >625 mm, and was focused on prespawning aggregations. Despite the presence of Mysis-fueled lake trout, kokanee have persisted; a noteworthy pattern when considering the negative responses of kokanee to nonnative lake trout and Mysis observed elsewhere. This pattern suggests that there may still be an effective niche for LCT in the invaded Lake Tahoe ecosystem.

Publication Year 2023
Title Pelagic food web interactions in a large invaded ecosystem: Implications for reintroducing a native top predator
DOI 10.1111/eff.12706
Authors Adam G. Hansen, Allison McCoy, Gary P. Thiede, David Beauchamp
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology of Freshwater Fish
Index ID 70240759
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center