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Where Predators and Prey Meet: Anthropogenic Contact Points Between Fishes in a Freshwater Estuary

  • Author(s): Lehman, Brendan M.
  • Gary, Meagan P.
  • Demetras, Nicholas
  • Michel, Cyril J.
  • et al.
Abstract

The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta has been invaded by several species of non-native predatory fish that are presumed to be impeding native fish population recovery efforts. Since eradication of predators is unlikely, there is substantial interest in removing or altering manmade structures in the Delta that may exacerbate predation on native fish (contact points). It is presumed that these physical structures influence predator-prey dynamics, but how habitat features influence species interactions is poorly understood, and physical structures in the Delta that could be remediated to benefit native fish have not been inventoried completely. To inform future research efforts, we reviewed literature that focused on determining the effects of predator-prey interactions between fish, based on contact points that are commonly found in the Delta. We also performed a geospatial analysis to determine the extent of potential contact points in the Delta. We found that the effects of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and artificial illumination are well studied and documented to influence predation in other freshwater systems worldwide. Conversely, other common structures in the Delta—such as docks, pilings, woody debris, revetment, and water diversions—did not have the same breadth of research. In the Delta, the spatial extent of the different types of contact points differed considerably. For example, 22% of the Delta water surface area is occupied by SAV, whereas docks only cover 0.44%. Our conclusion, based on both the literature review and spatial analysis, is that the effects of SAV and artificial illumination on predation warrant the most immediate future investigation in the Delta.

 

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