Initial and long-term consequences of attempts to improve fish-food resources in Lithuanian waters by introducing alien peracaridan species: a retrospective overview.
In this overview, we consider the rationale and practice of invertebrate introductions into Lithuanian waters, the current distribution of introduced species, test the theoretical expectations of introduction of peracaridan species into lakes, and summarize the large-scale consequences of these translocations. After some early attempts to transfer locally available species within the country, peracaridan species from the Ponto-Caspian region were introduced into Lithuanian waters during the 1960s (Pontogammarus robustoides, Obesogammarus crassus, Chaetogammarus warpachowskyi, Paramysis lacustris, Limnomysis benedeni and Hemimysis anomala). After their establishment at the site of first introduction in a newly constructed water reservoir on the Nemunas River, further deliberate introductions into Lithuanian lakes and water reservoirs, as well as into more distant areas, were undertaken. These introduced species soon contributed to fish diet and a subsequent increase in the production of commercially important fish was envisaged. However, our collation of available data does not support the enhancement of fish production in Lithuanian lakes. Although perch (selected as a model fish species) assimilated the introduced species into diet and sometimes in large quantities, there was no subsequent influence on somatic growth rates when compared with perch from lakes devoid of alien peracaridans. Comparisons of littoral fish communities of different lakes, and commercial catches in the lake with the most numerous populations of introduced species also indicate no significant effect on fish production. Negative consequences of introduction are more than obvious in contrast. To date, most of the introduced Ponto-Caspian amphipod and mysid species occur in different sites of the Baltic Sea basin outside Lithuania, and their further dispersal may be expected. These species, especially amphipods, have proved to be highly ecologically aggressive, inducing change in resident macroinvertebrate communities and causing increase of biological contamination (i.e. detract from naturalness). Thus, the introduction of alien fodder species was ill advised from an economic, and even adverse from an environmental perspective.