During the last few decades the fish community has changed substantially along the Eastern Mediterranean continental shelf, which is a hotspot of invasion by species that had migrated via the Suez Canal. Trawl data from the Israeli coast spanning two periods (1990–1994 and 2008–2011) were compared to identify species with substantial variation in their relative abundance between the two periods. The aim of this study was to examine if certain ecological traits characterize fish species showing an increase or decrease in relative abundance, and if non-indigenous fishes with strongly increasing populations may have caused the decline of native species with similar habitats and diets. We found that the main predictors of population trends were species length, habitat affinity, and maximum depth, with larger and soft bottom species displaying decreasing abundances. Comparing native and non-indigenous fishes with similar habitat and diet, we found a potential for competitive impact of the Indo-Pacific Plotosus lineatus and two Upeneus spp. on the native Mullus species. However, competition with non-indigenous fishes could not generally explain the dramatic decline of many other native species between the two study periods. Alternative causes, such as fishery pressure and increasing water temperature, are discussed.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Acknowledgments: Erik Arndt thanks Jana Schlaugat who assisted with the preparation of the databank. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions and to Naomi Paz for linguistic editing. This research was partially supported by a Marie Curie Integration grant number 614352 to Jonathan Belmaker.
© 2018 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
- Biological invasion
- Community ecology
- Ecological traits
- Lessepsian migration
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science