Hyperpredation occurs when non-native prey facilitate invasive predators, which then suppress native prey. Direct impacts of introduced fish on amphibians are well studied, but the role of fish in supporting shared predators has not been considered. We present evidence for indirect effects of trout on amphibians through snake predation. Analyses of the diet, distribution and density of the Pacific coast aquatic garter snake ( Thamnophis atratus ) relative to the sympatric common garter snake ( Thamnophis sirtalis ) in the Klamath Mountains of California suggest that trout introductions facilitated expansion of T. atratus by providing alternative prey. T. atratus diet included trout and amphibians whereas T. sirtalis preyed solely upon amphibians. The distribution and density of T. atratus matched that of introduced trout instead of native amphibians. Populations of T. atratus could reach high densities in the absence of high densities of amphibians. When the snakes opportunistically prey upon amphibians whose numbers are already directly impacted by trout, they can cause significant additional declines. When T. atratus was present in lake basins, native Cascades frogs ( Rana cascadae ) were rarer than in basins without T. atratus . This case differs from other hyperpredation studies because the two prey species also interact via intraguild predation. Given the worldwide practice of stocking fish into aquatic habitats, it is important to understand the consequences of the practice on food-web structure and ecosystem functioning. Bottom-up impacts of introduced predators should be considered as well as top-down so that managers can incorporate the range of ecosystem-level effects into conservation goals and decisions.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: May 1, 2008
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