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Possible unintended effects of management at an invasion front: Reduced prevalence corresponds with high condition of invasive bigheaded carps

Coulter, David P., MacNamara, Ruairí, Glover, David C., Garvey, James E.
Biological conservation 2018 v.221 pp. 118-126
Hypophthalmichthys molitrix, Hypophthalmichthys nobilis, biomass, body condition, dams (hydrology), fences, fish, fish communities, freshwater ecosystems, habitats, intraspecific competition, invasive species, natural resources conservation, population characteristics, rivers, roads, surveys, Asia, Great Lakes, Illinois River, United States
Limiting the prevalence of invasive species is a global conservation priority. Invasive species can have varying ecosystem effects and responses to control throughout an invaded range, and removal near invasion fronts may inadvertently alter these characteristics. Bigheaded carp (bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis Richardson) and silver carp (H. molitrix Valenciennes)) are invasive fishes from Asia invading North American freshwater ecosystems. We used mobile hydroacoustic surveys to examine bigheaded carp population characteristics from 2012 to 2015 across an invasion gradient in the Illinois River (USA), one of the most likely pathways to the Laurentian Great Lakes. These bigheaded carp species comprised 23–46% of fish community abundance and 45–78% of fish biomass across reaches, with lower contribution near the invasion front where intensive management by harvest occurs. Bigheaded carp prevalence in the community did not differ by habitat and comprised >50% of community abundance and biomass throughout the river for most size classes. We identified negative relationships between density and relative weight (an index of body condition) of bigheaded carp, suggesting evidence of potential density-dependent intraspecific competition. Efforts to reduce invasive species abundances near invasion fronts may reduce prevalence. However, this could inadvertently release individuals from density-dependent competition and could enhance reproductive potential, growth or movements. By employing a suite of control efforts, including continuous removal efforts (including novel approaches) and by limiting movements (e.g., utilizing roads, fences, dams), it may be possible to offset undesired consequences of increased condition.