Although it is well documented how introduced species can negatively affect native species, we only poorly understand how they may alter ecosystem functions. We investigated how an invasive fish affected the flux of aquatic insects to terrestrial food webs using mesocosms in a desert spring ecosystem. We compared aquatic insect emergence between alternative community states with monocultures and polycultures of two native species of fish, least chub (Iotichthys phlegethontis) and Utah chub (Gila atraria) plus, introduced western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis). We tested three hypotheses: (1) aquatic insect biomass will be greater than terrestrial insect biomass and thus, constitute a vital source of energy for terrestrial consumers (2) invasive mosquitofish will negatively impact the biomass of emerging aquatic insects, and (3) terrestrial consumers will negatively respond to decreased emerging aquatic insect biomass. Aquatic insects represented 79% of the flying insect community, and treatments with mosquitofish significantly reduced emergent aquatic insect biomass by 60% relative to the control without mosquitofish. Behavioral traits of invasive species are important, because mosquitofish most heavily affected insects that emerged during the day. Also, spiders that build horizontal webs were negatively correlated with decreasing aquatic insect biomass. Invasive mosquitofish can achieve very dense populations because of their high intrinsic rate of population increase, which can significantly disrupt the flow of energy between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, thereby reducing the energy available for terrestrial consumers.
College and Department
Life Sciences; Biology
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Merkley, Steven S., "An Invasive Species Reduces Aquatic Insect Flux to Terrestrial Food Webs" (2011). Theses and Dissertations. 2806.
invasive species, ecosystem function, aquatic-terrestrial linkages, insect emergence, desert springs, Gambusia affinis