Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Underwater evaluation of habitat partitioning in a European river between a non-native invader, the racer goby and a threatened native fish, the European bullhead.

Abstract

We conducted underwater surveys using SCUBA gear to examine habitat and microhabitat competition between the Ponto-Caspian racer goby Babka gymnotrachelus and native European bullhead Cottus gobio to assess the potential for competitive displacement of the native species by the invading species. In summer, 88 surveys were made in a tributary of the River Vistula within defined benthic areas across the entire width of the river bed. The occurrence of fish by total length class (small: <6 cm; large: >6 cm) and environmental conditions (depth, water velocity, substratum type, plant cover, shelter type) was recorded. We found a substantial separation between the species and size classes in relation to substratum, shelter type and water velocity. European bullheads were limited to lotic areas with stony bottoms, whereas racer gobies also occupied lentic areas over sand or mud. European bullheads usually took refuge under stones in contrast to a wider range of shelters used by racer goby, including tree roots and rubbish. In general, the breadth of habitat used by the racer goby was wider than that of the European bullhead, although habitat overlap between the species was not statistically significant except for the type of shelter occupied by small fish, selecting smaller stones. An inverse relationship was observed between small European bullheads and all racer gobies in areas where they co-occurred, suggesting that invader may be having an adverse effect on the distribution and habitat use of small native bullheads, particularly in areas of moderate water velocities over small stones and gravel.