Ecological impact of introduced fish in high altitude lakes: a case of study from the European Alps
Bighorn Lake, a fishless alpine lake, was stocked with nonnative brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis, in 1965 and 1966. The newly introduced trout rapidly eliminated the large crustaceans Hesperodiaptomus arcticus and Daphnia middendorffiana from the plankton. In July 1997, we began to remove the fish using gill nets. The population comprised 261 fish that averaged 214 g in wet weight and 273 mm in fork length. Thereafter, zooplankton abundance increased within weeks. Early increases were caused by the maturation of Diacyclops bicuspidatus, few of which reached copepodid stages before the removal of the fish because of fish predation. Daphnia middendorffiana, absent when fish were present, reappeared in 1998. Hesperodiaptomus arcticus, which had been eliminated by the stocked fish, did not return. The proportion of large zooplankton increased after fish removal, but their overall biomass did not change. Algal biomass was low and variable throughout the 1990s and correlated with water temperature but not with nutrient concentrations or grazer densities. Diatoms were the most abundant algal taxon in the lake, followed by Dinophyceae. Chrysophyceans and cryptophyceans were eliminated after the fish were removed. Chlorophyll a concentrations were unaffected. Gill netting is a viable fish eradication technique for smaller (less than 10 ha), shallow (less than 10 m deep) lakes that lack habitable inflows and outflows or other sensitive species. Further work is required to define appropriate removal methods for larger lakes and watersheds.