Alien invasions in aquatic ecosystems: toward an understanding of brook trout invasions and potential impacts on inland cutthroat trout in western North America
Experience from case studies of biological invasions in aquatic ecosystems has motivated a set of proposed empirical “rules” for understanding patterns of invasion and impacts on native species. Further evidence is needed to better understand these patterns, and perhaps contribute to a useful predictive theory of invasions. We reviewed the case of brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) invasions in the western United States and their impacts on native cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki). Unlike many biological invasions, a considerable body of empirical research on brook trout and cutthroat trout is available. We reviewed life histories of each species, brook trout invasions, their impacts on cutthroat trout, and patterns and causes of segregation between brook trout and cutthroat trout. We considered four stages of the invasion process: transport, establishment, spread, and impacts to native species. Most of the research we found focused on impacts. Interspecific interactions, especially competition, were commonly investigated and cited as impacts of brook trout. In many cases it is not clear if brook trout invasions have a measurable impact. Studies of species distributions in the field and a variety of experiments suggest invasion success of brook trout is associated with environmental factors, including temperature, landscape structure, habitat size, stream flow, and human influences. Research on earlier stages of brook trout invasions (transport, establishment, and spread) is relatively limited, but has provided promising insights. Management alternatives for controlling brook trout invasions are limited, and actions to control brook trout focus on direct removal, which is variably successful and can have adverse effects on native species. The management applicability of research has been confounded by the complexity of the problem and by a focus on understanding processes at smaller scales, but not on predicting patterns at larger scales. In the short-term, an improved predictive understanding of brook trout invasions could prove to be most useful, even if processes are incompletely understood. A stronger connection between research and management is needed to identify more effective alternatives for controlling brook trout invasions and for identifying management priorities.