2018 journal article

Assessing the Influence of Tilapia on Sport Fish Species in North Carolina Reservoirs

TRANSACTIONS OF THE AMERICAN FISHERIES SOCIETY, 147(2), 350–362.

By: M. Henson n, D. Aday n, J. Rice  n & C. Layman n

co-author countries: United States of America πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ
Source: Web Of Science
Added: August 6, 2018

Abstract Redbelly Tilapia Tilapia zilli and Blue Tilapia Oreochromus aureus are indigenous to Africa and the Middle East, but now occur throughout the southeastern United States. It is fairly well understood that foraging flexibility and wide salinity, oxygen, and temperature tolerances have led to general invasion success for most tilapia species. Conflicting empirical information about the influence of tilapia on native sport fish species, however, leaves natural resource managers unable to anticipate and prevent further introductions and potential associated risks to native sport fishes. This investigation focused on two North Carolina reservoirs with tilapia populations: Hyco Lake, a large reservoir in northcentral North Carolina and Lake Julian, a small impoundment in western North Carolina. These reservoirs receive heated effluent from power generation, which is assumed to provide winter refuge for tilapia at a time when temperatures would otherwise lead to mortality. We assessed relative abundances of the tilapias and native sport species (Bluegill Lepomis macrochirus , black basses Micropterus spp., and Black Crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus ) in these systems and examined their trophic interactions via diet and stable isotope analyses in both lakes. In Hyco Lake we assessed potential spatial interactions and influences on relative abundance using a priori candidate models and model selection via Akaike's information criterion ( AIC ). These analyses indicated little evidence of tilapias influencing the relative abundances of the sport species in Hyco Lake. In both lakes, however, we did find substantial diet overlap between the tilapias and Bluegill along with isotopic niche overlap between Blue Tilapia and Bluegill in Lake Julian and Redbelly Tilapia and Bluegill in Hyco Lake. Due to the omnivorous and flexible diet of all three species these interactions were not surprising, but the ultimate influence on Bluegill growth and size structure is unknown. Overall, our results suggest that tilapia are exploiting trophic niches that are not used by the sport fishes of interest in these two very different reservoir systems and that their direct impact on sport species is not substantial.