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Blog - Bioenergetics for management and conservation
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    • Global change and climate-driven invasion of the Pacific oyster along European coasts: a bioenergetics modelling approachby Mélanie Gouaux and Lise Guégniard

      Published by Charlotte Recapet the January 8, 2019 on 3:20 PM

      Environmental changes such as seawater warming, and coastal eutrophication have an impact on breeding, larval survival and recruitment of marine benthic species. Global change induces changes in the natural distributions of native species and facilitates the spread of non-native species. Nowadays, the spread of non-native species in marine ecosystems around the world is one of the most serious environmental concerns. In receiving ecosystems, consequences of biological invasions are readily identifiable when invasive species are ecosystem engineers such as polychaetes or bivalves.

      Scientists of the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea and of the university of Nantes investigated how global change relates to the invasion of European coasts by a non-native marine invertebrate, the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas.

      This species was introduced on the European coasts of the Atlantic at the end of the 19th century for shellfish culture purposes and is the main oyster species farmed in Europe today. In recent decades, the Pacific oyster has acquired invasive species status with the expansion of its biogeographic distribution along the northwestern European coast beyond its initial zone of introduction into sites breeding. Bourgneuf Bay on the French Atlantic coast was considered as the northern boundary of C. gigas expansion at the time of its introduction to Europe in the 1970s. From this latitudinal reference, variations in the spatial distribution of the C. gigas  reproductive niche were analysed along the northwestern European coast from Gibraltar to Norway.


      A bed of Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas in the Netherlands - Bas Kers - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

      Mechanistic models are valuable tools for this purpose, and modelling approaches are useful for gaining a quantitative understanding of the effects of environmental changes on marine communities, and predicting their responses to projected climatic trends.

      The use of the IBM and DEB models has shown results at different scales, at the individual scale, at the Bourgneuf Bay scale and at the European scale.

      At the individual level, the results showed interannual variability of the dry flesh mass (DFM). A loss of DFM is explained by a spawning event. There has been a significant increase in DFM and the number of oocytes in recent years. To explain these results, they studied the relationship between the environmental conditions in late spring and the characteristics of the oyster. Then they achieved positive relationships between DFM and phytoplankton. Likewise, between the number of accumulated oocytes and phytoplankton. Here, phytoplankton seems to be the cause of this increase of DFM and the number of oocytes in recent years for this species of oyster. Here, phytoplankton seems to be the cause of this increase of DFM and the number of oocytes in recent years for this species of oyster. Moreover, according to the individual model, the higher the temperature of the sea surface, the earlier the clutches (June-July). While a cooler sea surface temperature will result in late laying (August-September).

      Then, they applied the same models to the bay of Bourgneuf. The results showed an increase in the temperature of the sea surface in the bay, but also the effects of the temperature of the water on the laying. Indeed, as at the individual scale, the high-water temperatures lead to prose spits and vice versa.

      Results at the European level showed a change in the geographic limit of spawning habitat, regardless of phytoplankton concentration. In 1986, the limit was located at the level of the Loire estuary with a south-north spawning gradient, earlier in the south of Europe. In 2003, this limit moved completely to the north of Europe. This change can be explained by the global warming of the waters.

      Other studies have highlighted other results. Indeed, using a Degree / day model, Ifermer has demonstrated the importance of the nutrient pool for egg laying. Indeed, in recent years, laying is actually late because of the low nutritional value of phytoplankton. The warming of the waters would therefore cause the loss of the oyster's nutrient pool and thus a delay in laying eggs.

      Cited study: Yoann, T., et al. (2016). Global change and climate-driven invasion of the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) along European coasts: a bioenergetics modelling approach. Journal of Biogeography 43(3), 568-579.

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    • Effects of an exotic prey species on a native specialist: Example of the snail kiteby Mathieu Finkler and Hyppolyte Terrones

      Published by Charlotte Recapet the September 11, 2018 on 12:34 PM

      Exotic species have largely been studied over the years, their effects on native populations, their consequences... Most of the studies aim to see the competition between a native species and an exotic one. Here the study focus on the effect of an exotic species on a native predator.

      Florida snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus) are endangered, their populations are drastically declining in recent years. It is important to study them and to determine why their numbers are falling to implement an adapted conservation strategy.

      The purpose of the study is to assess the effects of the recently introduced island apple snail (Pomacea insularum) on snail kite behavior and energetics comparing with the native prey (Pomacea paludosa).


      Juvenile snail kite - Cláudio Dias Timm - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

      The authors determined different parameters such as the proportion of snail dropped, the searching and handling time, the consumption rate and proportion of time in flight. Caloric intake of both species has been determined by a model (Sykes 1987) and so is the daily energetic expenditure. Caloric balance seems to be perfectly suitable in this case because the difference in intake calories could affect all the life history traits and be the cause of the fast decline of the kites.

      Foraging on exotic snails led to a greater proportion of snails dropped, a lower consumption rate, a longer handling time and a lower energy balance (figure below). These conclusions are particularly true and worrying for juveniles. This results indicates that feeding on exotic snails will decrease their energy and so less energy will be available for others activities (like reproduction, growth, defence against predators...). Finally, lakes where only exotic species are present (Tohopekaliga) could form an ecological trap.


      From Cattau et al. 2010

      Even after this study, it will be hard to conclude on an optimal foraging theory because both snail species were never found together in a lake. Therefore it could be interesting to make the same study in a lake were both species are present. Furthermore, this study has been conducted during the breeding period. During breeding period, species will need more energy to feed their offspring, to protect them, potentially leading to a greater difference in energetic balance.

      Further studies may focus on the fact that kites feed on larger exotic preys (compared to native preys). Are the smallest individuals not available for kites or do kites choose to feed on larger exotic preys to compensate for their lower energetic content ?

      This method could be used in others studies of trophic relationships and not only on native-exotic conflict. For example if human overfish a species, the predator of this species will have to change preys. So it will be important to calculate the energetic balance with the new prey.

      Cited study: Cattau, C. E., Martin, J., & Kitchens, W. M. (2010). Effects of an exotic prey species on a native specialist: example of the snail kite. Biological Conservation, 143(2), 513-520.

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    • Can bioenergetic models help the re-introduction of the native Rio Grande cutthroat trout in a Southwestern headwater stream?by Emmanuel Bourgoin and Aurélien Callens.

      Published by Charlotte Recapet the May 16, 2018 on 1:47 PM

      Re-introduction of native species is far from being simple: many parameters must be accounted for! To illustrate that, we are going to take a closer look at a study made by Kalb and Huntsman (2017) on a stream in southcentral New Mexico which was deemed suitable for re-introduction of the native Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii virginalis). Before re-introducing this species, researchers wanted to know if the habitat was able to sustain it. Thus, they evaluated habitat using resource selection functions with a mechanistic drift-foraging model to explain rainbow trout distributions. They studied rainbow trouts because they are present on the stream and are close relative to the Rio grande cutthroat trout, consequently all the results of this study can be extended to this native species.

       
      Rainbow trout - Timothy Knepp/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Public domain

      Each month, the available habitat and foraging locations were evaluated along the stream. Foraging locations were defined as the location where they could observe a foraging fish. For each foraging site, the length of the fish was estimated and physical characteristics such as discharge, focal velocity (current velocity at the head of the fish), depth, cover distance and temperature were measured on the exact fish location. These parameters were also measured on the available sites. Macroinvertebrate drift was estimated on all the locations (available and foraging). All these parameters were used in bioenergetic models which allow the researchers to estimate all the intakes of the fish (net energy intake, energy assimilated…) and all the costs associated with foraging (capturing a prey, swimming…).

      First, they observed that macroinvertebrate drift was strongly season- and temperature-dependant with high values in summer and fall and low values in winter and spring. Moreover, as we must expect it, water temperature, depth and discharge were found to be seasonal parameters too. Secondly, models identified the depth as the most limiting factor for habitat selection: trout of all ages preferred habitat location with a greater depth.  The most interesting thing about the models is that they can show the characteristics of the chosen habitat according to the age of the trout and the season. In fact, they showed that during the winter the smaller size-classes were more likely to choose a position closer to cover. Additionally, they highlighted that spring was the season with the greater energy intake for all the size-classes expect the 4+. Finally, drift-foraging models identified that 81% of observed trout selected positions could meet maintenance levels throughout the year and 40% of selected habitats could sustain maximum growth. Despite these last observations, the larger size-classes were energetically more limited throughout the year.

      This study showed that trout population prefers deep pool habitats with slow moving water and that this stream was able to sustain a great population of rainbow trout and could consequently sustain a great native population of Rio grande cutthroat trout. However, authors warn us about the risk of hybridization and interspecific competition and suggest removing the non-native fishes first.

      To answer the question in the title: yes, bioenergetic models can help to re-introduce a native species in a given environment. Nonetheless, this example is really specific: author had the chance to find and study a close relative to the native trout in the stream! The main thing to remember is that bioenergetic models give a lot of useful information on how a species uses an habitat and must be taken into account (if applicable) in the management of species.

      Cited study : Kalb, B. W., Huntsman, B. M., Caldwell, C. A., & Bozek, M. A. (2018). A mechanistic assessment of seasonal microhabitat selection by drift-feeding rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss in a Southwestern headwater stream. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 101(2), 257-273.

       

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