We examined trophic interactions of the nonnative salmonids Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus mykiss, Brown Trout Salmo trutta, and Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinalisand the main native predator Creole Perch Percichthys trucha in Lake Nahuel Huapi (Patagonia, Argentina) to determine the relative impact of each predator on their forage base and to evaluate the potential vulnerability of each predator to competitive impacts by the others. Using bioenergetics simulations, we demonstrated the overall importance of galaxiids and decapods to the energy budgets of nonnative salmonids and Creole Perch. Introduced salmonids, especially Rainbow Trout, exerted considerably heavier predatory demands on shared resources than did the native Creole Perch on both a per capita basis and in terms of relative population impacts. Rainbow Trout consumed higher quantities and a wider size range of Small Puyen (also known as Inanga) Galaxias maculatus than the other predators, including early pelagic life stages of that prey; as such, this represents an additional source of mortality for the vulnerable early life stages of Small Puyen before and during their transition from pelagic to benthic habitats. All predators were generally feeding at high feeding rates (above 40% of their maximum physiological rates), suggesting that competition for prey does not currently limit either Creole Perch or the salmonids in this lake. This study highlights the importance of keystone prey for the coexistence of native species with nonnative top predators. It provides new quantitative and qualitative evidence of the high predation pressure exerted on Small Puyen, the keystone prey species, during the larval to juvenile transition from pelagic to littoral-benthic habitat in Patagonian lakes. This study also emphasizes the importance of monitoring salmonid and Creole Perch population dynamics in order to detect signs of potential impacts through competition and shows the need to carefully consider the rationale behind any additional trout stocking.
Additional publication details
Modeling prey consumption by native and non-native piscivorous fishes: implications for competition and impacts on shared prey in an ultraoligotrophic lake in Patagonia