Responses of epibenthic and nektonic macroinvertebrate communities to a gradient of fish size in ponds
Size relationships between fish and organisms from adjacent trophic levels are crucial for predicting the structure and dynamics of aquatic ecosystems. We compared macroinvertebrate communities along a fish-size gradient created by separate stocking of three age cohorts of common carp Cyprinus carpio in semi-natural ponds. The specific size range of fish (small, medium and large) corresponding to fish age in ponds was the factor most strongly associated with macroinvertebrate composition. The other significant habitat variables were dissolved oxygen concentration in the water and submerged vegetation abundance in the open-water zone. Among the most numerous taxa in the ponds, relative abundances of Hirudinea, Gastropoda, Odonata and Coleoptera were larger in the presence of small-sized than of larger-sized carp. However, fish size effect was not linear, in that macroinvertebrate assemblages were less similar between ponds containing medium- vs large-sized fish than between ponds with small- vs large-sized fish. The dissimilarity patterns were mainly determined by disparities in abundance of Corixidae, which unlike other taxa common in the ponds occurred in the greatest numbers in the presence of large-sized carp. Macroinvertebrate diversity was greatest in ponds with small-sized fish and was positively related to emergent macrophyte cover. Enhancement of emergent vegetation is recommended as the most effective management strategy to buffer adverse impacts of fish on macroinvertebrates. If fish are present in the system, assessment of the size structure of fish populations can be advantageous in unravelling the essential processes driving the variation in pond communities.
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