Cascading effect of exotic fish fry on plankton community in a tropical Andean high mountain lake: a mesocosm experiment
Fishless Andean high mountain lakes may be vulnerable to fish invasion because they tend to be small, oligotrophic and contain low zooplankton diversity. During the first decades of the twentieth century, rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mikiss, was introduced in South America, and stocking of juvenile stages (fry) in lakes continues today. However, their effect on plankton in these lakes has been little studied. We performed a mesocosms experiment to assess effects of trout of different ontogenetic stages on zooplankton and phytoplankton in a tropical-Andean high mountain lake. The presence of trout fry resulted in declines in several large zooplankton taxa, increases in chlorophyll a and dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN). Our results showed that small fry consume large copepods (Colombodiaptomus brandorffi) at a faster rate than larger fry, and also consumed medium sized copepods (Tropocyclops prasinus) that are not affected by the larger trout fry. Fish of both sizes consumed Ceriodaphnia quadrangula, a midsize cladoceran. Fish predation had weak effect on the phytoplankton biomass, but we found a correlation between zooplankton biomass and phytoplankton richness, and significantly larger cell of the alga Peridinium in the presence of fish. Our results indicate that trout introduction produces cascading ecological and phenotypic effects on the plankton communities of tropical mountain lakes, similar to those observed in temperate latitudes.
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