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Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) is an invasive, fruit- bearing riparian tree that dominates riparian zones of the San Juan River in the southwestern United States. Previous research in this river suggests olive fruit is common in diets of invasive channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus), but its energetic importance is unknown (i.e. critical for catfish fitness vs. incidental consumption). We assessed Russian olive consumption in channel catfish diets bimonthly for 1 year, hypothesizing that olive consumption would be greatest during periods of high olive availability and low benthic aquatic invertebrate availability. We found that catfish consumed olive fruit throughout the year and that olive comprised up to 44% of total stomach contents by mass, with peaks in spring and fall. Regression models revealed the presence and mass of olive fruit in catfish stomachs were positively associated with catfish total length, with a significant interaction between water temperature and river discharge. Catfish were more likely to consume olive fruit during higher flows, regardless of temperature and at low discharge with higher temperature. Contrary to our hypothesis, neither olive nor benthic invertebrate availability were associated with olive presence in channel catfish diets. Nutrition analysis indicated that olive alone was a low-quality diet item but has the potential to provide a reliable energy source. We used seasonal data to estimate the energetic contribution of olive fruit to catfish populations using a bioen-ergetic model, which estimated that olive fruit accounted for 35.6% of energy (Joules) consumed by catfish populations and satisfied 38% of their metabolic demand. Our results suggest that Russian olive fruit is a significant subsidy to channel catfish in the San Juan River. However, more research is needed to determine the indirect effects of this interaction on native fishes and ecosystem function.
Ecology of Freshwater Fish
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Cheek, Christopher A.; Peoples, Brandon K.; and Goforth, Reuben R., "Diets of Invasive Channel Catfish are Subsidized by Invasive Riparian Trees" (2023). Natural Resource Management Faculty Publications. 333.