Several previous studies indicate that presence of fish has negative effects on waterbirds breeding on lakes, owing either to competition for common invertebrate prey or fish predation on ducklings/chicks. However, others have reported results to the contrary and it remains unresolved what factors trigger, inhibit, and modulate fish-waterbird interactions. The present study was designed to test the effect of fish presence per se, with a minimum of variation in possibly confounding environmental variables. Thus, after stratifying for area, depth, altitude, pH, and total phosphorus we compared 13 lakes with and 12 without fish (mainly pike Esox lucius and perch Perca fluviatilis) with respect to (i) general species richness of waterbirds, (ii) species-specific utilization and breeding success of two dabbling ducks (mallard Anas platyrhynchos and teal Anas crecca) and a diving duck (goldeneye Bucephala clangula). General species richness of waterbirds was higher on fishless lakes. Overall use (bird days) and brood number of teal and goldeneye were higher on fishless lakes. The latter also had more benthic and free-swimming prey invertebrates compared to lakes with fish. Mallard use, mallard brood number, and abundance of emerging insects did not differ between lake groups. Generalized linear models including fish presence as factor and considering seven environmental variables as covariates, confirmed that all waterbird variables except mallard days and broods were negatively correlated to fish presence. There was also a residual positive relationship of lake area on general species richness, teal days, and teal broods. Our data demonstrate a stronger effect of fish presence on diving ducks and small surface feeding ducks than on large surface-feeding ducks. We argue that observed patterns were caused by fish predation on ducks rather than by fish-duck competition for common prey.
- Biologi (106)