In size-structured communities where individuals grow in size over their life cycle, interactions between species will shift between competitive and predatory interactions depending on size relationships. The outcome of interactions will subsequently depend on the strength of competitive and predatory interactions, respectively.
In a whole lake experiment including four experimental lakes, it was tested under which conditions the competing prey, roach Rutilus rutilus, could successfully recruit into systems previously occupied by the predator, perch Perca fluviatilis. Two replicated introduction experiments were carried out 3 years apart.
Roach were able to successfully recruit into three of the four experimental lakes of which two were also inhabited by the top predator pike Esox lucius. Resource levels were unrelated to whether roach could successfully recruit into the systems as recruiting roach in all years were feeding close to their maximum rate.
High population fecundity of roach and low predation pressure by perch combined were necessary ingredients for successful recruitment and the presence of only one of these conditions did not result in successful recruitment.
It is hypothesized that, although roach were able to successfully recruit into one lake with only perch present in addition to the two lakes that also inhabited pike, long-term coexistence of roach and perch depends on the presence of another top predator (e.g. pike) selectively preying on perch. This hypothesis was supported by data on co-occurrence of perch and roach in different lakes.
Overall, the results are in accordance with expectation of size-structured life-history omnivory theory suggesting that coexistence between top predator and intermediate consumer is fragile.
2007. Vol. 76, no 1, 94-104 p.