Factors mediating the distribution and impact of the non-native invertebrate predator Bythotrephes longimanus
Jokela, Anneli Marie
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Predicting the impacts of non-native species remains one of the greatest challenges to invasion ecologists. Because of their insularity, freshwater systems are particularly vulnerable to invasions, especially from non-native predators. The research in this thesis explores the role of abiotic and biotic factors in mediating the distribution and impact of Bythotrephes longimanus, a predatory cladoceran that has been introduced to freshwater systems in North America. Although the general impacts of this invasion have been documented, little is known about the factors that modulate them. Using a combination of field surveys and experiments, I tested several hypotheses concerning the influence of interactions with native species, as well as the role of heterogeneity in the light environment, in mediating the impact of Bythotrephes. Results demonstrated that biotic resistance by native macroinvertebrate predators does not play a limiting role in the establishment success of Bythotrephes. However, the within-lake distribution of Bythotrephes was influenced by these macroinvertebrates, suggesting that the native predator context matters when trying to understand the impacts of non-native predators. This was demonstrated with a mesocosm experiment in which the impact of Bythotrephes was constrained by the native Chaoborus larvae. In terms of the abiotic environment, in situ feeding experiments demonstrated that refuges from impact could exist for some prey taxa, as the outcome of predation by Bythotrephes was dependent on light availability and some prey taxa were more successful at evading predation under low light conditions. Finally, results show that adaptive behaviour by prey is also an important determinant of impact, as migrating Daphnia can escape predation effects by Bythotrephes. The combination of light-limited predation and a shallow distribution by Bythotrephes selects for prey that occupy relatively deeper positions during the day. As a whole, this research highlights the importance of complex interactions in mediating the impact of Bythotrephes and may help to explain some of the variation that has been documented among invaded lakes. A better understanding of these complex interactions can improve our ability to anticipate impacts as Bythotrephes continues to spread, as well as provide insight on some of the long-term effects following invasion.