Signs of the times: Isotopic signature changes in several fish species following invasion of Lake Constance by quagga mussels

Author: Baer J., Spiessel C., Auerswald K., Geist J., and Brinker A.
Year: 2022
Digital Object Identifier:

Type: Journal Article
Topic: Biology, Ecosystem Impacts



Since the arrival of the invasive quagga mussels Dreissena rostriformis bugensis in Lake Constance, significant changes in the zooplankton and benthic invertebrate community were observed. Five years later the quagga mussel has become the dominating species of the benthic community. Its effects on other components of the food web, especially those at higher trophic levels such as fish, remain unclear around the world. To evaluate the actual impact of quaggas on the local food web of Lake Constance, the stable isotope compositions of pelagic whitefish and different benthic fish species from before and after the quagga invasion were compared. A significant increase in δ13C was detected in pelagic whitefish one year after the establishment of the quagga mussel in the lake. This change was most likely the consequence of an increase in benthic-derived nearshore primary production and a shift towards more littoral feeding, than a change in dietary composition. Stomach content analysis of contemporary samples revealed that pelagic whitefish (Coregonus wartmanni) still feed exclusively on pelagic zooplankton. In contrast, benthic whitefish (Coregonus macrophthalmus), roach (Rutilus rutilus) and tench (Tinca tinca) show today high levels of quagga consumption. However, this behaviour alone could not explain the observed differences in δ15N from periods before and after the quagga invasion. The results suggest that energy sources and pathways have changed considerably for both pelagic and benthic dwelling fish species in Lake Constance following the establishment of quaggas.

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