Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Presence of invasive Gambusia alters ecological communities and the functions they perform in lentic ecosystems

Charles Hinchliffe A , Trisha Atwood B , Quinn Ollivier A C and Edd Hammill A B D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Life Sciences, University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, NSW 2007, Australia.

B Department of Watershed Sciences and the Ecology Center, Utah State University, Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322, USA.

C School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Centre for Integrative Ecology, Deakin University, Vic. 3125, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: edd_hammill@hotmail.com

Marine and Freshwater Research 68(10) 1867-1876 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF16301
Submitted: 3 September 2016  Accepted: 31 December 2016   Published: 10 March 2017

Abstract

By acting as novel competitors and predators, a single invasive species can detrimentally affect multiple native species in different trophic levels. Although quantifying invasive effects through single-species interactions is important, understanding their effect on ecosystems as a whole is vital to enable effective protection and management. This is particularly true in freshwater ecosystems, where invasive species constitute the single greatest threat to biodiversity. Poeciliid fishes of the genus Gambusia are among the most widespread invasive species on earth. In the present study of lentic ecosystems (i.e. lakes), we first showed that Gambusia alter zooplankton community composition and size distribution, likely through size-selective predation. Second, we demonstrate that benthic macroinvertebrate communities significantly differ between sites with and without invasive Gambusia. The presence of Gambusia appears to reduce leaf-litter decomposition rates, which is likely an indirect effect of reductions in detritivore abundances. Reductions in decomposition rates found in the present study suggest that through trophic cascades, invasive Gambusia is able to indirectly alter ecosystem functions. The study has highlighted that the widespread effects of invasive aquatic species are able to permeate through entire ecosystems, being more pervasive than previously recognised.


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