Impacts of introduced brown and rainbow trout on benthic invertebrate communities in shallow New Zealand lakes
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Wissinger, Scott A.
McIntosh, Angus R.
Greig, Hamish S.
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1. Brown and rainbow trout have been introduced to many inland waters in New Zealand, but research on the impacts on native communities has focused mainly on streams. The purpose of this study was to compare the benthic communities of trout and troutless lakes. Based on previous studies in North America and Europe, we predicted that the benthic biomass, and especially the abundance of large invertebrates, would be lower in lakes with trout as compared to those without. We surveyed the invertebrate fauna of 43 shallow, high-elevation lakes (26 with and 17 without trout) in four geographic clusters on the central South Island and then conducted a detailed quantitative study of invertebrate biomass and community structure in 12 of these lakes. 2. Benthic community composition and diversity of lakes with and without trout were nearly identical and biomass was as high or higher in the lakes with as without trout. There was no evidence that trout have caused local extinctions of benthic invertebrates. Although the proportional abundance of large-bodied aquatic was slightly lower in lakes with than without trout, the abundance of several groups of large-bodied benthic taxa (dragonflies, caddisflies and water bugs) did not differ. 3. Our findings are in contrast to those in North American and Europe where trout introductions into previously troutless lakes have led to declines in the abundance of benthic invertebrates, especially large-bodied taxa. We propose that the modest effects of trout in New Zealand could be explained by (i) the high areal extent of submergent vegetation that acts as a benthic refuge, (ii) low intensity of trout predation on benthic communities and/or (iii) characteristics of the benthic invertebrates that make them relatively invulnerable to fish predation. 4. Regardless of the relative importance of these hypotheses, our results emphasise that the same invertebrates occurred in all of the lakes, regardless of size, elevation and presence of trout, suggesting habitat generalists dominate the benthic fauna in shallow New Zealand lakes.