Progress report of actions C.1,C.2 at December 2014

During the 2014 field season the eradication and monitoring activities were carried out without any deviation from the project schedule. According to the more optimistic predictions provided in the eradication plan, it is possible that the efforts in the lakes Djouan and Nero (the smaller lakes) were successful in eradicating Salvelinus fontinalis. However it would be necessary to wait for the next field season to get some confirmatory data. In the lakes Dres and Leynir, fish captures continued also in the 2014, mainly affecting young, small brook trout, which, according to the eradication plan, could not be caught during 2013. The capture rates drop down to very low levels in both the lakes and it would be necessary to wait for the next field season to see if the eradication process will be completed within the scheduled time (3 years).

The resilience process in the treated lakes was monitored by measuring or sampling (1) the chemical and physical properties of lakes’ water, (2) the chlorophyll-a concentration, (3) the zooplankton community, (4) the community of littoral macroinvertebrates, (5) the biomass exchange between terrestrial and aquatic habitats (in terms of emergent and sinking insects) and (6) the reproductive success of Rana temporaria in the treated lakes and in a set of control lakes (with and without fish). The ecological resilience was yet clearly visible for some of the measured variables. In general there are many observational evidences of the ecological resilience. However a quantitative analysis of the ecological resilience has yet to be done.

Detailed information and monitoring data on the project schedule are provided in the Report V2 and related appendices, in Dowload section

Second alpine lake field season is over

30 September marked the end of the long field season for the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) eradication program conducted within the framework of the BIOAQUAE project. Intensive fish capture operations, commenced in the summer of 2013, were resumed in early June 2014 after the winter break.

In the course of the second field season, GPNP researchers spent the entire summer in the Park, living in the local structures, and obtained some encouraging results. In particular, they believe the eradication process in the two smaller lakes included in the project (Lago Nero and LakeDjouan) was completed earlier than expected (Fig.1). Several thousand fish were captured in Lake Dres, but they mostly consisted of young specimens (only 10 of the fish captured in 2014 were longer than 15 cm), which, consistently with the indications provided in the research project, could not be captured during the first year of the program on account of their extremely small size (Fig.2). In the Leynir lake, the largest and deepest, capture rates dropped to extremely low levels, even though a few hundred fish, comprised of young and adult specimens, were captured during the 2014 field season (Fig 2).

Biodiversity recovery has been progressing at an unexpected pace. In particular, some groups of macro invertebrates (aquatic insects such as caddis flies) are thriving in the lakes treated.

On the whole, the results of the second field season have been satisfactory and give reason to hope for the future of brook trout eradication activities.

 

The brook trout eradication operations are nearing completion at Lago Nero and Lake Djouan. During the winter, 32 fish were captured in Lake Djouan and none in Lago Nero. During the summer season, no fish were captured in Lake Djouan and only 4 fish, ca 9 cm long, were captured in Lago Nero. On the X-axis: number of days elapsed since the start of the eradication operations; on the Y-axis; number of fish captured per session.

 

The number of fish captured at the Dres Lake continued to be high in 2014: 1600 in the winter (of which only 2 were potential reproducers) and about 3500 in the summer months (of which less than 10 were potential reproducers). At the Leynir Lake 300 fish were captured in the winter and ca 600 in the summer (with a few dozen potential reproducers). In both lakes capture rates have dropped appreciably. On the X-axis: number of days elapsed since the start of the eradication process; on the Y-axis; number of fish captured per session.

The first season of LIFE+ BIOAQUAE project concluded successfully

Autumn has come, and with it the first season of fieldwork for the eradication of brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) from the alpine lakes of the Gran Paradiso National Park has come to an end. The eradication of this non-native trout is one of the initiatives undertaken under a three-pronged plan, the LIFE+ BIOAQUAE project. Based on the satisfactory results obtained so far, prospects look good for the recovery of these high elevation aquatic ecosystems.   

                                

In order to eradicate this introduced species originating from North America, an aggressive predator whose presence has greatly undermined the biodiversity of the alpine lakes, LIFE+ BIOAQUAE researchers placed tens of fishing nets in each of the 4 lakes included in the eradication program. Fishing activities went on continuously for over three months (from June through September), resulting in the removal of ca 8000 fish and a sharp drop in fish population density in the lakes. 

The chart on the right shows the typical catch rate for brook trout as recorded in the Djouan Lake in Valsavarenche: the high number of fish caught during the first few days declined fast and the rate stabilised over values close to zero as the fieldwork season progressed.

The results obtained indicate that the eradication methods employed (fishing nets and electrofishing) work well for this type of intervention, which will be carried on in the coming years. The good news is that a few timid but significant signs of ecosystem recovery may already be discerned. Dozens of dragonflies are flying over the Dres Lake in Orca Valley and Daphnias are swimming in the pelagic zone; for the first time, some Dytiscidae(tiny swimming Coleoptera) have been seen in the Nero Lake in Valsavarenche, while in the Djouan Lake, in the same valley, frogs are back in great numbers and quite a few caddisflies are managing to survive.

The five-year project is still in its early stage, but the return of some of the autochthonousspecies to the alpine lakes is a positive sign that engenders enthusiasm and confirms the importance of this action. During the long alpine winter, while the fishing nets continue their slow work of capturing the fish beneath the frozen surfaces of the lakes, the researchers will conduct laboratory analyses on the samples collected. In the spring of 2014, a new eradication drive will get underway, and it is hoped will provide further evidence of the efficacy of this action.

                           

Glossary

Eradication: removal of a species from a location, in this case, removal of brook trout from the alpine lakes.

Introduced species: a species non-native to a site, which has been transported to the new location either directly or indirectly by human activity; also referred to as allochthonous species.

 

Follow us on

FacebookTwitter