| Reduced condition factor of two native fish species coincident with invasion of non-native Asian carps in the Illinois River, U.S.A. Is this evidence for competition and reduced fitness? Journal of Fish Biology, Volume 71 Page 258-273, December 2007.
Non-native, Asian carps bighead Hypophthalmichthys nobilis and silver Hypophthalmichthys molitrix have been present in the Illinois River since the early 1990s. The Long-Term Resource Monitoring Program (LTRMP) has been collecting bighead and silver carps in routine monitoring of the La Grange Reach, Illinois River, since 1995 and 1998, respectively. Despite variable recruitment, Asian carps abundance and biomass have increased since 2000, as evidenced by commercial landings, and Asian carps now dominate the fish community on La Grange Reach. Previous research suggests dietary overlap among bighead and silver carps and two native Illinois River fishes, gizzard shad Dorosoma cepedianum and bigmouth buffalo Ictiobus cyprinellus. Total length and mass data from c. 5000 fishes were used to test for changes in gizzard shad and bigmouth buffalo body condition after Asian carps establishment and investigate potential competitive interactions and changes in fitness. Analyses revealed significant declines in body condition of gizzard shad (−7%) and bigmouth buffalo (−5%) following the Asian carps invasion from 2000 to 2006. Segmented regression analyses showed no significant change in the rate of decline in gizzard shad condition after 2000, whereas the rate of decline in bigmouth buffalo condition increased significantly after 2000. Statistically significant differences in gizzard shad condition after Asian carps establishment (2000–2006) was observed, whereas condition of bigmouth buffalo was significantly lower in all years following Asian carps establishment as compared to 2000. Declines in gizzard shad and bigmouth buffalo condition were significantly correlated with increased commercial harvest of Asian carps and poorly correlated with other abiotic and biotic factors (e.g. temperature, chlorophyll a and discharge) that may influence fish body condition. These results may suggest that Asian carps are influencing native planktivore body condition, and future research should focus on determining whether food is limited in the Illinois River for native planktivores and other fish species.