Contrasting Population and Life History Responses of a Young Morph-Pair of European Whitefish to the Invasion of a Specialised Coregonid Competitor, Vendace
Invasions of non-native species represent a global problem of great scientific interest. Here we study in detail the response in population and life history characteristics of closely related native species, with divergent habitat preferences, that are impacted by an invading species over a sufficient time period to allow a new stable state to become established. A time series of 20 years starting at the first occurrence of the invader (vendace Coregonus albula (L.)) allows exploration of the long term population and life history response of two ecologically, morphologically, and genetically different native sympatric morphs (DR- and SR-) of congeneric whitefish C. lavaretus (L.). The whitefish morphs are taxonomically equally related to the invading vendace, but only the planktivorous DR-whitefish share its pelagic niche. We would expect that the ecological differences between the whitefish morphs may be used as a predictor of competitive effects. Vendace exhibited an initial boom-and-bust development, and has continued to fluctuate in density. The responses of the pelagic DR-whitefish were: i) an immediate habitat shift, ii) a subsequent population decline caused by increased annual mortality, and iii) a new stable state at a lower density and apparently relaxed competition. The ecologically more distant benthivorous SR-whitefish also showed significant, but a much more limited response during this process, indicating damped indirect interactions through the food-web. This long-term case-study found that in two native eco-species equally related to the invader, only one of the eco-species was highly affected. Direct competition for resources is obviously important for species interactions, whereas the taxonomic relatedness per se seems to offer little predictive power for invasion effects.
PublisherPublic Library of Science (PLoS)
CitationPLoS ONE (2013), vol. 8(7): e68156.
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