|Indirect effects of invasive species affecting the population structure of an ecosystem engineer|Waser, A.M.; Splinter, W.; van der Meer, J. (2015). Indirect effects of invasive species affecting the population structure of an ecosystem engineer. Ecosphere 6(7): 109. dx.doi.org/10.1890/ES14-00437.1
In: Ecosphere. ISSN 2150-8925, more
Carcinus maenas (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]; Crassostrea gigas (Thunberg, 1793) [WoRMS]; Mytilus edulis Linnaeus, 1758 [WoRMS]
Carcinus maenas; Crassostrea gigas; density-mediated indirect interactions; ecosystem engineer; habitat complexity; indirect effects; invasive species; Mytilus edulis; predation; trait-mediated indirect interactions; Wadden Sea.
Species invasion is of increasing concern as non-native species often have negative impacts on ecosystems that they were introduced to. Invaders negatively affect the abundance of native species due to direct interactions like predation and competition. Additionally, invaders may benefit native biota by imposing indirect effects on resident species interactions. Invaders indirectly affect resident species via both density-mediated indirect interactions (DMIIs) and trait-mediated indirect interactions (TMIIs). Previous studies on these different indirect interactions have largely examined the effects on structuring ecological systems, with paying little attention to the role of body size. Here, we experimentally demonstrate that an invasive habitat modifier of European coastal waters, the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas), alters the population structure of native mussels (Mytilus edulis) by modifying the size specific predator-prey interaction between the mussels and the shore crab (Carcinus maenas). In laboratory split-plot experiments, the presence of Pacific oysters reduced the mortality of unconditioned mussels as well as mussels that were acclimatized in presence of predatory cues, while being exposed to predation by crabs of two different size classes. The reduction in mortality was size-dependent both in terms of the predators and the prey. The presence of oysters notably reduced mussel mortality in presence of small crabs, while the mortality rate in presence of big crabs was less affected. Mussels that benefited the most by the presence of oysters were those of recruitment stages, smaller than 20 mm in shell length. Our results suggest that oysters cause a strong shift in the population structure of M. edulis, reducing particularly the mortality of smaller sized mussels.