Feeding interactions between the introduced ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi and juvenile herring Clupea harengus in the Wadden Sea.
We analysed feeding interactions between Mnemiopsis leidyi and juvenile Clupea harengus in the Wadden Sea. Biomass, diet overlap, prey selectivity, predation impact and stable isotope composition (C, N) of both species were assessed from June to September 2010. High biomass of C. harengus was found in June and July (wet weight 3.0±1.8 g m-3) followed by a steep decline from August to September (wet weight 0.01±0.01 g m-3), coinciding with a dramatic increase in M. leidyi biomass (wet weight 18.3±16.1 g m-3 during August). These two species showed a high overlap in their respective diets (copepods, meroplankton) during the study period. Predation impact of C. harengus on calanoid copepods was highest in June and July where 84 and 41% of the standing stock were eaten per day in June and July, respectively. Predation impact of M. leidyi on calanoid copepods was highest in September (16%). Based on stable isotope analysis C. harengus and M. leidyi were assigned to a trophic level of 3.08 and 2.47, respectively. Furthermore, we assessed the potential of competition between M. leidyi and C. harengus in a mesocosm experiment. Results indicated that at present zooplankton densities intraspecific competition in C. harengus seemed to be greater than interspecies competition with M. leidyi. Due to the low predation impact of M. leidyi and the reduced temporal overlap, competition between M. leidyi and C. harengus during the study period was estimated as low. Nevertheless, considering the high dietary overlap and the inter-annual variation in biomass and occurrence of both species and their zooplankton prey, competition in the Wadden Sea area cannot be excluded.