Influence of connectivity, habitat quality and invasive species on egg and larval distributions and local abundance of crucian carp in Japanese agricultural landscapes.
The quality of habitat at and around a spawning site, and the availability of movement between spawning and nonspawning habitats are likely to be important determinants for population persistence in a degraded and fragmented landscape. We assessed the influence of habitat connectivity, habitat quality and invasive species for distributions and local abundance of eggs and larvae of crucian carp (Crassius auratus complex, which is listed as "data deficient" on the Japanese Red List) in agricultural landscapes surrounding Lake Mikata, Japan, where drainage ditches and paddy fields are extensively utilised for spawning (lake or river shores are also used). We investigated the presence and abundance of eggs and larvae of crucian carp and habitat components at 146 sites across a range of presumed spawning habitats. Egg presence was affected strongly by connectivity to the lake (watercourse distance from the lake), and egg abundance was significantly influenced by both connectivity and habitat quality. In contrast, larval presence was primarily related to habitat quality. Larval abundance was influenced by connectivity and habitat quality, but the effect of connectivity was relatively low. Furthermore, larval abundance was negatively related to the presence of the invasive species red swamp crayfish (Procambarus craki) and bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana). Our findings indicate that connectivity, habitat quality and the presences of invasive species are crucial in determining suitable spawning and nursery habitats, but their relative importance may vary depending on egg and larval life stages. We suggest that restoring connectivity, improving habitat quality and removal of invasive species could be effective conservation strategies for the declining populations of crucian carp in agricultural landscapes.