Effect of round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) invasion on blue mussel (Mytilus edulis trossulus) population and winter diet of the long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis).
The invasive round goby has established a viable population within 9 years of its first introduction to Lithuanian coastal waters (SE Baltic Sea). During its expansion phase, abundances increased 23-fold, which led to the near complete eradication of its main prey, the blue mussel, at <20 m depth. The round goby population showed a stabilizing trend after blue mussel biomass was depleted; however, their abundance has not declined. The round goby feeds efficiently on newly settled mollusks, causing a severe constraint for blue mussel recovery. Changes in blue mussel availability and size structure induced a dietary shift in wintering long-tailed duck towards fish prey. An energetically dense food source sustains a good body condition in long-tailed ducks, however the change in trophic position (from 3.1 to 4.3 trophic level) suggests the potential for a reduction in their carrying capacity. Results from this study also show that coastal habitats with low and unpredictable population dynamics of blue mussel become less attractive wintering sites for long-tailed duck in the Baltic Sea. We also document a cascading effect of invasive species in the food web.