Exploring crowded trophic niche space in a novel reservoir fish assemblage: how many predators is too many?

Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
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Abstract

In highly managed reservoir systems, species interactions within novel fish assemblages can be difficult to predict. In high-elevation Scofield Reservoir in Utah the unintentional introduction of Utah Chub Gila atraria and subsequent population expansion prompted a shift from stocking exclusively Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus mykiss to include tiger trout (female Brown Trout Salmo trutta × male Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinalis) and Bonneville Cutthroat Trout O. clarkii utah, which composed a novel suite of top predators and potential competitors. We examined the interspecific interactions among Scofield Reservoir piscivores using a multifaceted approach including gut analyses, stable isotopes, and gape limitation. Large Cutthroat Trout consumed 50–100% Utah Chub and tiger trout consumed 45–80%. In contrast, small and large Rainbow Trout consumed primarily invertebrate prey and exhibited significant overlap with small tiger trout, Cutthroat Trout, and Utah Chub. Large Cutthroat Trout and tiger trout occupy a top piscivore trophic niche and are more littoral, while Rainbow Trout occupy an omnivore niche space and are more pelagic. Both Cutthroat and tiger trout varied in niche space with respect to size-class, demonstrating an ontogenetic shift to piscivory at approximately 350 mm TL. Cutthroat Trout and tiger trout are capable of consuming prey up to 50% of their own size, which is larger than predicted based on their theoretical gape limit. Because it appears food resources (Utah Chub) are not limited, and performance metrics are high, competition is unlikely between Cutthroat Trout and tiger trout. In contrast, apparent survival of Rainbow Trout has recently declined significantly, potentially due to shared food resources with Utah Chub or negative behavioral interactions with other members of the community. Collectively, this research aids in understanding biotic interactions within a top-heavy and novel fish community and assists towards developing and implementing suitable management strategies to control nuisance species.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Exploring crowded trophic niche space in a novel reservoir fish assemblage: how many predators is too many?
Series title Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
DOI 10.1080/00028487.2015.1083475
Volume 114
Issue 6
Year Published 2015
Language English
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Seattle
Description 12 p.
First page 1117
Last page 1128
Country United States
State Utah
Other Geospatial Scofield Reservoir
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N