Projects per year
The aim of this study was to examine how the presence of a predator and an interspecific competitor influence the habitat use of adult perch (Perca fluviatilis; size: 15.1 ± 0.5 cm) when given the choice between two adjacent habitats. By conducting aquarium experiments, the habitat occupancy of P. fluviatilis was documented in the presence and absence of a predator (pike Esox lucius; size: 25.4 ± 2.1 cm) and a potential competitor (ruffe Gymnocephalus cernuus; size: 14.1 ± 0.3 cm) fish species. Two P. fluviatilis individuals generally shared the same habitat. In the presence of a conspecific, P. fluviatilis favoured the structurally more-complex, artificial macrophyte habitat over the less-structured rock and sand habitat, which in turn were used equally. In the predator- and competitor treatments, P. fluviatilis seemed to adapt their habitat use to the habitat occupancy of E. lucius and G. cernuus in the Macrophyte vs. Rock and, in the predator treatment, also in the Macrophyte vs. Sand habitat combination, by increasingly occupying a habitat that was used less by the predator or competitor species, respectively. This behaviour suggests that P. fluviatilis tried to avoid the other fish species by choosing a, in some cases less preferred, predator- or competitor-free habitat. This study emphasizes the importance of biological interactions illustrated by the potential of predation risk and competition to structure fish communities by influencing habitat use at small spatial scales.