This paper reports on the response by amphibians, benthic macroinvertebrates, and zooplankton in naturally fishless alpine lakes to fish introductions and subsequent fish disappearance. We assessed resistance (the degree to which a system is altered when the environment changes) by comparing faunal distribution and abundance in lakes that have never been stocked with fish vs. the distribution and abundance in lakes that have been stocked and still contain fish. We assessed resilience (the degree and rate of a system's return to its previous configuration once the perturbation is removed) by comparing faunal distribution and abundance in lakes that were stocked at one time but have since reverted to a fishless condition (stocked-now-fishless lakes) vs. the distribution and abundance in lakes that have never been stocked. We quantified recovery rates and trajectories by comparing faunal assemblages of stocked-now-fishless lakes that had been fishless for 5––10, 11––20, and >20 yr. Faunal assemblages in the study lakes had low resistance to fish introductions, but in general showed high resilience. The mountain yellow-legged frog ( Rana muscosa ), conspicuous benthic macroinvertebrates, and large crustacean zooplankton (>1 mm) were dramatically reduced in distribution and abundance by fish introductions but generally recovered to predisturbance levels after fish disappearance. Inconspicuous benthic invertebrate taxa, small crustacean zooplankton (<1 mm), and rotiferan zooplankton (<0.2 mm) were either unaffected by fish or increased in the presence of fish. For both the benthic macroinvertebrate community and the zooplankton community as a whole, fish disappearance was followed by a steady change away from the configuration characteristic of fish-containing lakes and toward that of lakes that had never been stocked. Both communities remained markedly different from those in never-stocked lakes 5––10 yr after fish disappearance and converged on the configuration of never-stocked lakes only 11––20 yr after fish disappearance. Recovery was likely facilitated by the winged adult stages of many benthic macroinvertebrates, resting eggs of zooplankton, and nearby source populations of frogs. However, many frog populations have disappeared since the time that lakes in this study reverted to a fishless condition, and the viability of zooplankton egg banks should decline in fish-containing lakes over time. As a result, faunal resilience may be lower in lakes that revert to a fishless condition today than is suggested by the results of our study. These findings have important implications for the restoration of alpine lake ecosystems.
Ecological Monographs – Ecological Society of America
Published: Aug 1, 2001
Keywords: alpine lakes ; amphibians ; exotic species ; fish ; invertebrates ; predation ; recovery ; resilience ; resistance ; Sierra Nevada ; stability ; zooplankton
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