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Ecology. 2007 Nov;88(11):2915-25.

Influence of fish on habitat choice of water birds: a whole system experiment.

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Department Biologie II, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Grosshaderner Str. 2, D-82152 Planegg-Martinsried, Germany.


It is notoriously difficult to study population interactions among highly mobile animals that cannot be meaningfully confined to experimental plots of limited size. For example, migratory water birds are believed to suffer from competition with resident fish populations for shared food resources. While observational evidence in support of this hypothesis is accumulating, replicated experiments addressing this issue at the proper spatial scale are lacking. Here, we report from a replicated whole-system experiment in which we stocked large (0.07 km2), shallow (< or =2.5 m deep), highly eutrophic ponds in the bird protection area "Ismaninger Speichersee mit Fischteichen" with different densities of carp and assessed the responses of water birds and their food resources during summer over several years. In all years, the biomasses of benthic macroinvertebrates, macroalgae, and macrophytes as well as the densities of herbivorous, carnivorous, and omnivorous water birds were reduced in carp ponds compared to fishless ponds. The negative effects of carp on food resources and on the numbers of water birds feeding in carp ponds increased over the season (May-September) and were stronger at high than at low stocking densities of carp. Consequently, differences in resource densities between ponds with and without carp increased, and the ranking of ponds with respect to resource densities became more predictable over the season. These factors may have contributed to a seasonal improvement of the birds' abilities to track resource densities across ponds, as suggested by tight correlations of bird numbers on ponds with resource densities late, but not early, in the season.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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