Habitat alteration facilitates the dominance of invasive species through disrupting niche partitioning in floodplain wetlands.
Aim: Exotic species invasion often leads to declines in local and regional biodiversity, particularly in freshwater ecosystems. This biodiversity loss is generally facilitated by human activities such as land cover change and hydrological alternation. Recent advances in stable isotope analysis (SIA) have been highlighted in many studies addressing fundamental issues in invasion ecology, especially in quantifying competition for resources between native and exotic species. However, how anthropogenic disturbance influences trophic relationships among invasive and native species remains poorly understood. Location: Middle-lower Yangtze River Region, China. Methods: To investigate the effects of human disturbance on interspecific trophic interactions, this study compared isotopic niche space and overlap of the introduced red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) and the native oriental river shrimp (Macrobrachium nipponense) and freshwater snail (Bellamya aeruginosa) in natural and modified wetlands. Results: Based on carbon and nitrogen SIA, we found ubiquitous niche shifts in macroinvertebrates with increased competition, which might lead to significant niche contraction in modified habitats at both community and population scales. Moreover, the isotopic niche width of the exotic crayfish was twice as larger as that of natives at both habitats, suggesting that the exotic P. clarkii had great competitive superiority over the native species. However, the effects of habitat modification on niche overlap were inconsistent. While the niche overlap between crayfish and shrimp was significantly higher in modified habitats than in natural open waters, niche overlap between crayfish and the snail was significantly reduced. Main conclusions: Collectively, our findings highlight that the competitive outcomes of interspecific trophic interactions can be dependent on the prey availability and diversity, which embraces both the classic optimal foraging theory and competition theory to understand how environmental change, such as habitat alternation, affects the biological invasion processes.