Community level ecological traits are thought to affect invasibility as more diverse communities with complex trophic interactions may be associated with greater biotic resistance. Elucidation of the nature of this relationship is often hampered by difficulties in characterising food webs, particularly where field data are lacking. We attempted to overcome this by coupling food web modelling with information-theoretic analysis of the modelled webs. In addition, we also investigated the possibility that species level trends in trophic traits of established aliens might reflect exploitation of empty niches. We constructed hypothetical food webs of 26 natural and artificial lentic habitats from a data set consisting of 370 fish species representing 71 families. Using these food webs, we investigated associations at the community level between food web traits and network topology and number of alien fish species using an information-theoretic approach based on a set of competing a priori hypotheses. At the species level, we similarly tested for trends in trophic traits of established alien fishes using the information-theoretic approach in addition to nMDS of diet data. We found that native species richness in a community was the most important determinant of the number of alien fish taxa, displaying an inverse relationship. Our data also show that alien fish generally feed lower down the food web. Our findings suggest that the biotic resistance hypothesis, though scale dependent, can result in observable effects in animal communities. Moreover, we also found that the ability to exploit low energy yield food sources could favour the establishment of alien species via avoidance of resistive forces from native taxa.
Bibliographical noteWe thank two anonymous reviewers for constructive suggestions and comments which substantially improved the manuscript. We also gratefully acknowledge PUB, Singapore's national water agency, and the members of the National University of Singapore??(NUS) Reservoir Biodiversity team for data of fish fauna from Singapore reservoirs; and the National Research Foundation and the Economic Development Board (SPORE, COY-15-EWI-RCFSA/N197-1), PUB (NUS Grant No. R-154-000-619-490), and an AcRF Tier 1 Grant from the Singapore Ministry of Education (NUS Grant No. R-154-000-465-133) for financial support.
- Aquatic food webs
- Biological invasion
- Biotic resistance
- Competitive exclusion