Innocent until proven guilty? Stable coexistence of alien rainbow trout and native marble trout in a Slovenian stream.
To understand the consequences of the invasion of the nonnative rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss on the native marble trout Salmo marmoratus, we compared two distinct headwater sectors where marble trout occur in allopatry (MTa) or sympatry (MTs) with rainbow trout (RTs) in the Idrijca River (Slovenia). Using data from field surveys from 2002 to 2009, with biannual (June and September) sampling and tagging from June 2004 onwards, we analyzed body growth and survival probabilities of marble trout in each stream sector. Density of age-0 in September over the study period was greater for MTs than MTa and very similar between MTs and RTs, while density of trout ≥age-1 was similar for MTa and MTs and greater than density of RTs. Monthly apparent survival probabilities were slightly higher in MTa than in MTs, while RTs showed a lower survival than MTs. Mean weight of marble and rainbow trout aged 0+ in September was negatively related to cohort density for both marble and rainbow trout, but the relationship was not significantly different between MTs and MTa. No clear depression of body growth of sympatric marble trout between sampling intervals was observed. Despite a later emergence, mean weight of RTs cohorts at age 0+ in September was significantly higher than weight of both MTs and MTa. The establishment of a self-sustaining population of rainbow trout does not have a significant impact on body growth and survival probabilities of sympatric marble trout. The numerical dominance of rainbow trout in streams at lower altitudes seem to suggest that while the low summer flow pattern of Slovenian streams is favorable for rainbow trout invasion, the adaptation of marble trout to headwater environments may limit the invasion success of rainbow trout in headwaters.