Thursday, 26 September 2013

A Fast Fish With a Huge Impact

Sep. 23, 2013 — Globalization is breaking down barriers -- also for plants and animals on the lookout for new homes. Rivers are also changing, in particular through the introduction of non-native species, often brought in by passing ships. In the Danube River, scientists have been observing a fish species conquering a new habitat and creating a totally new ecosystem in the process.

Recent decades have seen massive changes to many river systems. To improve passage for ships, humans have been straightening, deepening, and reinforcing river banks and altered the natural flow regime. Water temperatures are also rising as a result of climate change. All of which provides perfect conditions for the round goby, a fish traditionally found in the lower stretches of the Danube and along the coasts of the Black Sea. Today, however, round goby has expanded its distribution range significantly and can now be found in the headwater of the Danube as well as in the Rhine, the Baltic Sea and the Laurentian Great Lakes in North America.

Scientists at the Technische Universität München (TUM) have teamed up with the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology (ZSM) to investigate the strategies the round goby uses to conquer new stretches of river and the impact on the ecosystem and existing food webs. This is the first comprehensive study of this nature has been carried out.

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