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Trophic consequences of competitive interactions in freshwater fish: density dependent effects and impacts of interspecific versus intraspecific competition.

de Santis, V., Gutmann Roberts, C. and Britton, J.R., 2021. Trophic consequences of competitive interactions in freshwater fish: density dependent effects and impacts of interspecific versus intraspecific competition. Freshwater Biology, 66 (2), 362-373.

Full text available as:

FWB-P-Apr-20-0165.R2_trophic consequences.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.


DOI: 10.1111/fwb.13643


1. Determining the comparative impacts of increased intra- versus inter-specific competition is important in freshwater ecosystems for understanding the ecological changes that can result from activities such as fish stocking events (using alien and/ or native fish species), as well as from natural processes that elevate population abundances (e.g increased annual recruitment success). While increased inter-specific competition can result in slower growth rates and/ or reduced population density in the weaker or less abundant competitor, it is important that this is assessed in relation to the impacts of increased intra-specific competition. 2. We tested how the strength of inter-specific competition from a co-existing species varies with abundance, and how this compares with increased intra-specific competition. Fish were the model taxa, as their growth rates strongly correlate with competitive success. Replicated pond mesocosms (150 days) used chub Squalius cephalus in an allopatric control (n=5; C5) and allopatric treatment (n=10; C10), and in sympatric treatments (n=5) with European barbel Barbus barbus (n=5 (T1), 10 (T2) and 15 (T3)). Treatment effects were tested on fish specific growth rates (SGR), and the size and position of the trophic and isotopic niche (stomach contents and stable isotope analyses (SIA) respectively). 3. Chub SGRs were significantly higher in C5 versus all other treatments, but did not differ among the other allopatric and sympatric treatments. Chub trophic niche sizes in T1 to T3 were significantly smaller than C5, indicating more specialised diets in the presence of barbel. Chub trophic niche size in C10 was, however, larger than C5 and T1, indicating a shift to a more generalised diet as intra-specific competition increased. 4. As SGRs reduced in treatments, so did the predicted extent of fish stable isotope turnover, with SI data in T1 to T3 not at isotopic equilibrium with their diet in the mesocosms at the experiment’s end. Following conversion of fish SI data to represent values at 95% isotopic turnover, chub isotopic niches also revealed shifts to a more general diet as intra-specific competition increased, but to more specialised diets as inter-specific competition increased. 5. Increased intra- and inter-specific competition impacts on the trophic and isotopic niches were contrasting; both metrics indicated niche constrictions in sympatry but niche expansions in allopatry. Impacts on fish growth were evident from both. These results emphasise that the trophic consequences of competition in freshwater fish can differ between stocking events involving the release of conspecifics or other species, with this having important considerations for how freshwater fish communities are managed for angling exploitation.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Funding Information: University of Insubria Bournemouth University
Uncontrolled Keywords:diet composition, isotopic niche; niche partitioning; trophic niche
Group:Faculty of Science & Technology
ID Code:34690
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:13 Oct 2020 13:27
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:24


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