Nonnative trout impact an alpine-nesting bird by altering aquatic-insect subsidies

Authors

  • Peter N. Epanchin,

    1. Graduate Group in Ecology, Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616 USA
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    •  Present address: Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, 3101 Valley Life Sciences Building, Berkeley, California 94720 USA. E-mail: pnepanchin@berkeley.edu

  • Roland A. Knapp,

    1. Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory, University of California, HCR 79, Box 198, Mammoth Lakes, California 93546 USA
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  • Sharon P. Lawler

    1. Graduate Group in Ecology, Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616 USA
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  • Corresponding Editor: K. O. Winemiller.

Abstract

Adjacent food webs may be linked by cross-boundary subsidies: more-productive donor systems can subsidize consumers in less-productive neighboring recipient systems. Introduced species are known to have direct effects on organisms within invaded communities. However, few studies have addressed the indirect effects of nonnative species in donor systems on organisms in recipient systems. We studied the direct role of introduced trout in altering a lake-derived resource subsidy and their indirect effects in altering a passerine bird's response to that subsidy. We compared the abundance of aquatic insects and foraging Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches (Leucosticte tephrocotis dawsoni, “Rosy-Finch”) at fish-containing vs. fishless lakes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California (USA). Introduced trout outcompeted Rosy-Finches for emerging aquatic insects (i.e., mayflies). Fish-containing lakes had 98% fewer mayflies than did fishless lakes. In lakes without fish, Rosy-Finches showed an aggregative response to emerging aquatic insects with 5.9 times more Rosy-Finches at fishless lakes than at fish-containing lakes. Therefore, the introduction of nonnative fish into the donor system reduced both the magnitude of the resource subsidy and the strength of cross-boundary trophic interactions. Importantly, the timing of the subsidy occurs when Rosy-Finches feed their young. If Rosy-Finches rely on aquatic-insect subsidies to fledge their young, reductions in the subsidy by introduced trout may have decreased Rosy-Finch abundances from historic levels. We recommend that terrestrial recipients of aquatic subsidies be included in conservation and restoration plans for ecosystems with alpine lakes.

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