A plague of waterfleas (Bythotrephes): impacts on microcrustacean community structure, seasonal biomass, and secondary production in a large inland-lake complex

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© 2016, The Author(s). The spiny cladoceran (Bythotrephes longimanus) is an invasive, predaceous zooplankter that is expanding from Great Lakes coastal waters into inland lakes within a northern latitudinal band. In a large, Boundary Water lake complex (largely within Voyageurs National Park), we use two comparisons, a 2-year spatial and a 12-year temporal, to quantify seasonal impacts on food webs and biomass, plus a preliminary calculation of secondary production decline. Bythotrephes alters the seasonal biomass pattern by severely depressing microcrustaceans during summer and early fall, when the predator is most abundant. Cladoceran and cyclopoid copepods suffer the most serious population declines, although the resistant cladoceran Holopedium is favored in spatial comparisons. Microcrustacean biomass is reduced 40–60 % and secondary production declines by about 67 %. The microcrustacean community shifts towards calanoid copepods. The decline in secondary production is due both to summer biomass loss and to the longer generation times of calanoid copepods (slower turnover). The Bythotrephes “top-down” perturbation appears to hold across small, intermediate, and large-sized lakes (i.e. appears scale-independent), and is pronounced when Bythotrephes densities reach 20–40 individuals L−1. Induction tests with small cladocerans (Bosmina) suggest that certain native prey populations do not sense the exotic predator and are “blind-sided”. Failure of prey to deploy defenses could explain the disproportionate community impacts in New World versus Old World lakes.

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Biological Invasions