Increasing circumstantial evidence indicates that the introduction of brown trout (Salmo trutta L.) to New Zealand has caused a widespread decline in native fish populations but few of the underlying mechanisms have been investigated. The possibility of spatial competition was investigated by comparing the microhabitat used by native Galaxias vulgaris Stokell (Family Galaxiidae) that were sympatric and allopatric with brown trout. A range of microhabitat variables was measured from random locations where G. vulgaris were present in the Shag River during the day. G. vulgaris preferred coarse substrates, using them as resting places, but showed no other microhabitat preferences. This pattern of microhabitat use did not change in the presence of brown trout although galaxiid densities were considerably lower. Experiments in in situ stream channels confirmed that competition for space does not occur during the day even at high galaxiid densities. This situation changed dramatically at night, however, with G. vulgaris spending significantly more time in slower areas when trout were present. G. vulgaris feeds on drifting invertebrates, so brown trout could affect the galaxiids deleteriously by forcing them to occupy less profitable feeding positions. Interspecific competition for space, perhaps combined with competition for food and predation by trout, could explain declines in G. vulgaris populations.
Journal of Fish Biology – Wiley
Published: Jul 1, 1992
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