Analysis and Interpretation of Freshwater Fisheries Data

16: Predator-Prey Interactions

David A. Beauchamp, David H. Wahl, and Brett M. Johnson


This chapter focuses on the analysis and interpretation of predator–prey interactions among vertebrates and invertebrates in freshwater systems associated with fisheries. All aquatic species are subject to predation during some phase of life (Mittlebach and Persson 1998). Predator–prey interactions play a major role in determining the structure and function of aquatic communities (Brooks and Dodson 1965; Carpenter et al. 1985; Kerfoot and Sih 1987; Northcote 1988) by influencing parameters such as survival, size structure, growth, behavior, and distribution, as well as biodiversity and water quality of these systems. These interactions are mediated by the physical–chemical environment (Kitchell 1979; Crowder et al. 1981; Coutant 1985; Gregory 1994) and habitat characteristics (Cooper and Crowder 1979; Wiley et al. 1984; Walters and Juanes 1993; Sogard 1994), which, in turn, are affected by human-induced alterations to the environment (Coutant et al. 1979; Jenkins 1979; Sandheinrich and Atchison 1990; Mesa 1994; Mesa et al. 1994).

Predation can regulate the dynamics of prey populations directly by reducing recruitment and survival (Miller et al. 1988; Luecke et al. 1990a; Tonn et al. 1992) or indirectly by altering prey behavior (Eggers 1978; Stein 1979; Clark and Levy 1988; Lima and Dill 1990), distribution, habitat choice, foraging, or growth (Dill and Fraser 1984; Werner and Gilliam 1984; Wurtsbaugh and Li 1985; Clark and Levy 1988; Jakobsen et al. 1988; Ibrahim and Huntingford 1989; Fraser and Gilliam 1992; Milinski 1993; Sogard 1994) or by altering competition and predator–prey interactions (e.g., Paine 1980; Werner et al. 1983; Mittlebach 1986, 1988; Persson 1991; Persson et al. 2000). Humans are very efficient aquatic predators: fishing can have large direct and indirect effects by selectively removing piscine predators, thereby altering food web structure and ecosystem function (He and Kitchell 1990; Schindler et al. 1998; Gislason and Sinclair 2000; Link and Garrison 2002). Prey can also influence predators as prey quantity and quality affect feeding rates, growth, and reproductive success of predators. Temporal and spatial changes in prey availability and vulnerability may influence movement and distribution patterns of predators.