The widespread introduction of non-native fishes has contributed to freshwater ecosystems being considered among the most altered ecosystems globally. Of particular concern are invasive planktivorous fishes (e.g., silver carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix and bighead carp H. nobilis, collectively known as bigheaded carps) that have the potential to modify basal food web structure and compete for planktonic resources with native planktivores and young-of-year fishes. Bigheaded carps have proliferated throughout the Mississippi River basin, creating an outsized potential for resource competition with native fishes. Studies have showed niche overlap between bigheaded carps and native planktivores is generally high but that overlap varies among rivers. Importantly, niche overlap has not been assessed for density extremes of bigheaded carps within a river to determine whether trophic niches changed as a result of the invasion. The objectives of this study were to determine whether (1) silver and/or bighead carps share a similar isotopic niche with four native planktivores, and (2) that association varies ecologically (i.e., low- and high-densities of bigheaded carps) and spatially (i.e., between rivers). Our results generally show high trophic overlap among species, suggesting potential direct resource competition. Niche overlap was higher in study reaches with low densities of bigheaded carps compared to reaches with high densities, presumably due to intense resource competition and limiting of resources under high densities of bigheaded carps. Across density extremes, trophic reorganization by bigmouth buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus) was divergent from other native planktivores. Species-specific responses may be due to subtle differences in feeding strategies, degree of planktivory, food selectivity, and correlated food size distributions.
- Stable isotopes
- Trophic niche
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics