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Prey and non‐native fish predict the distribution of Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius) in a south‐western river in North America

Franssen, Nathan R., Durst, Scott L.
Ecology of freshwater fish 2014 v.23 no.3 pp. 395-404
adults, age structure, fish, models, predators, prediction, recruitment, rivers, watersheds, Colorado, Colorado River
Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius) has been extirpated from a large portion of its historical range in the Colorado River basin, USA. A repatriation effort via stocking of juvenile P. lucius in the San Juan River, NM, CO and UT has resulted in limited recruitment of individuals into an adult population. Understanding biotic and abiotic factors that limit their persistence in the Colorado River basin will be a critical step in providing for their recovery. To elucidate potential recruitment barriers in the San Juan River, we assessed relationships between the numbers of two age classes of P. lucius and prey, competitors and predators collected at a 1.6 km reach scale between 2003 and 2012. We used an information theoretical approach to rank candidate models testing the relative importance of these biotic conditions in predicting the spatial distribution of P. lucius. We found positive relationships between the numbers of P. lucius ≤200 mm total length (TL) collected and catch per unit effort (CPUE) of native prey among reaches. For P. lucius >200 mm TL (individuals that are likely completely piscivorous), we found positive associations between the numbers of P. lucius collected and CPUE of total prey and CPUE of potential non‐native competitors in each reach. Our data suggest size‐specific affinities of P. lucius for native and non‐native prey as well as the potential for negative interactions between P. lucius and non‐native competitors may contribute to limited recruitment of juvenile P. lucius into an adult population in the San Juan River.