Changes in fish diets and food web mercury bioaccumulation induced by an invasive planktivorous fish

Ecological Applications
By: , and 



The invasion, boom, collapse, and reestablishment of a population of the planktivorous threadfin shad in Clear Lake, California, USA, were documented over a 20-year period, as were the effects of changing shad populations on diet and mercury (Hg) bioaccumulation in nearshore fishes. Threadfin shad competitively displaced other planktivorous fish in the lake, such as inland silversides, young-of-year (YOY) largemouth bass, and YOY bluegill, by reducing zooplankton abundance. As a result, all three species shifted from a diet that was dominated by zooplankton to one that was almost entirely zoobenthos. Stable carbon isotopes corroborated this pattern with each species becoming enriched in δ13C, which is elevated in benthic vs. pelagic organisms. Concomitant with these changes, Hg concentrations increased by ∼50% in all three species. In contrast, obligate benthivores such as prickly sculpin showed no relationship between diet or δ13C and the presence of threadfin shad, suggesting that effects of the shad were not strongly linked to the benthic fish community. There were also no changes in Hg concentrations of prickly sculpin. The temporary extirpation of threadfin shad from the lake resulted in zooplankton densities, foraging patterns, isotope ratios, and Hg concentrations in pelagic fishes returning to pre-shad values. These results indicate that even transient perturbations of the structure of freshwater food webs can result in significant alterations in the bioaccumulation of Hg and that food webs in lakes can be highly resilient.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Changes in fish diets and food web mercury bioaccumulation induced by an invasive planktivorous fish
Series title Ecological Applications
DOI 10.1890/06-1415.1
Volume 18
Issue sp8
Year Published 2008
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 14 p.
First page A213
Last page A226
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