Eradication of invasive Tamarix ramosissima along a desert stream increases native fish density

Theodore A. Kennedy, Jacques C Finlay, Sarah E Hobbie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations

Abstract

Spring ecosystems of the western United States have high conservation value, particularly because of the highly endemic, and often endangered, fauna that they support. Refuges now protect these habitats from many of the human impacts that once threatened them, but invasive species often persist. Invasive saltcedar is ubiquitous along streams, rivers, and spring ecosystems of the western United States, yet the impact of saltcedar invasion on these ecosystems, or ecosystem response to its removal, have rarely been quantified. Along Jackrabbit Spring, a springbrook in Nevada that supports populations of two endangered fish (Ash Meadows pupfish and Ash Meadows speckled dace) as well as several exotic aquatic consumers, we quantified the response of aquatic consumers to largescale saltcedar removal and identified the mechanism underlying consumer response to the removal. Clearing saltcedar from the riparian zone increased densities of native pupfish and exotic screw snails, but decreased the density of exotic crayfish. Positive effects of saltcedar removal on pupfish and snails occurred because saltcedar heavily shades the stream, greatly reducing the availability of algae for herbivores. This was confirmed by analyses of potential organic matter sources and consumer 13C: pupfish and snails, along with native dace and exotic mosquitofish, relied heavily on algae-derived carbon and not saltcedar-derived carbon. By contrast, crayfish δ13C values mirrored algae δ13C during summer, but in winter indicated reliance on allochthonous saltcedar litter that dominated organic inputs in saltcedar reaches and on algae-derived carbon where saltcedar was absent. The seasonal use of saltcedar by crayfish likely explains its negative response to saltcedar removal. Clearing saltcedar effectively restored the springbrook of Jackrabbit Spring to the conditions characteristic of native vegetation sites. Given the high conservation value of spring ecosystems and the potential conservation benefits of saltcedar removal that this research highlights, eradicating saltcedar from spring ecosystems of the western United States should clearly be a management priority.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2072-2083
Number of pages12
JournalEcological Applications
Volume15
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2005

Keywords

  • Biological invasion
  • Crayfish
  • Desert springbrook
  • Ecosystem restoration
  • Food web
  • Mosquitofish
  • Pupfish
  • Screw snail
  • Speckled dace
  • Stable isotope
  • Tamarix

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