The importance of rip-rap for round goby invasion success - a field habitat manipulation experiment.
In a recent study, we showed how local-scale climate change impacts (increased temperature, reduced rainfall, shifts in peak rainfall) affected the hydrology of a channelised lowland European river (reduced flow, reduction in flood events, increased siltation, macrophyte growth), allowing native fish species to recolonise the bankside zone and reduce the density of invasive round goby Neogobius melanostomus by effectively removing its preferred habitat, rip-rap bank stabilisation. Here, we report on a follow-on study whereby stretches of the newly vegetated bank were stripped back to clean rip-rap to assess whether presence/absence of rip-rap was the major factor affecting non-gobiid, tubenose goby Proterorhinus semilunaris and round goby abundance. Our results confirmed rip-rap as a major factor increasing round goby abundance, and hence invasion success, on European rivers, while vegetated banks saw an increase in the abundance and diversity of non-gobiid species. While tubenose gobies showed no preference for habitat type, their numbers were significantly reduced in rip-rap colonised by larger and more aggressive round gobies. We discuss our results in light of recent artificial bank restoration measures undertaken on the Danube and Rhine and the potential role of round goby as a flagship species for cost-effective, large scale river bank restoration projects with multiple ecosystem benefits.