Invasive pike establishment in Cook Inlet Basin lakes, Alaska: Diet, native fish abundance and lake environment

Stormy Haught, Frank A. von Hippel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

Northern pike (Esox lucius) were introduced to the northern Susitna Basin of south-central Alaska in the 1950's, and have since spread throughout the upper Cook Inlet Basin. Extirpations of several native fish populations have been documented in this area. It is hypothesized here that invasive pike remodel the ecology of lakes by removing vulnerable prey types and that these changes are reflected in the diet of invasive pike. Trends in pike diet suggest that pike switch to less desirable but more abundant macroinvertebrate prey as preferred fish prey are eliminated. The impacts of pike introduction were studied in detail for one species of resident fish, the threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Stickleback abundance decreases as pike invasion progresses. Conductivity is a significant environmental predictor of stickleback abundance, with higher conductivity apparently mitigating population reduction. Higher conductivity water may lessen the physiological costs of developing more robust armor, which reduces vulnerability to predation. Maximum lake depth also appears to predict stickleback abundance, though this trend was only marginally significant. Deeper lakes may provide an open-water refuge from pike predation by allowing stickleback to exist outside of the pike inhabited littoral zone. These findings indicate the importance of diverse habitat types and certain chemical and physical characteristics to the outcome of invasion by fish predators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2103-2114
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Invasions
Volume13
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Invasive fish
  • Northern pike
  • Stomach contents
  • Threespine stickleback
  • Trophic cascade

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology

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