Do introduced crayfish affect benthic fish in stony littoral habitats of large boreal lakes?
Invasive crayfish are spreading rapidly across Europe, where they are replacing the native crayfish species and impacting negatively on some other biota. Freshwater crayfish and many benthic fishes share similar habitat and food requirements and hence potentially compete for resources. In this study, we investigated impacts of the introduced signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) on fish in stony littoral habitats of two large boreal lakes. We compared the littoral fish community composition and the densities of two common benthic fish species between sites with and without crayfish. To evaluate whether signal crayfish share the same food resources as benthic littoral fish or change their feeding habits, we used mixing models and trophic niche estimates based on analyses of stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen. Both the community composition of littoral fish and the densities of benthic fish species were similar at sites with and without signal crayfish. Even though stable isotope signatures indicated strong dietary overlap between crayfish and benthic fish, the use of food sources and trophic niche widths of fish were not noticeably different between crayfish sites and non-crayfish sites. Our results suggest that, at current densities, the non-native signal crayfish does not have significant impacts on benthic fish in the stony littoral habitats of large boreal lakes.