Fish predation on Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) herbivores and indirect effects on macrophytes

Darren M. Ward, Raymond M. Newman

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27 Scopus citations


We assessed the effect of fish predation on native and naturalized insect herbivores of the invasive aquatic plant Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) using manipulative field experiments within lakes and a field survey across lakes. For the field experiments, we manipulated sunfish (Lepomis spp.) density in cages in the littoral plant beds of two contrasting lakes: one with many sunfish, few watermilfoil herbivores, and abundant Eurasian watermilfoil; and one with few sunfish, many herbivores, and little Eurasian watermilfoil. Watermilfoil herbivores, including the milfoil weevil (Euhrychiopsis lecontei) and aquatic caterpillars, were suppressed by fish in both experiments. Herbivore density was also negatively related to sunfish abundance in the multiple-lake survey. We conclude that abundant sunfish can strongly suppress watermilfoil herbivores. Furthermore, in one of our experiments there was a marginally significant effect of fish exclosure on watermilfoil, suggesting that fish suppression of watermilfoil herbivores can have a positive, indirect effect on plant growth. Fish predation on macrophyte herbivores may be an important trophic interaction in freshwater lakes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1049-1057
Number of pages9
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2006


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