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Strong impacts of signal crayfish invasion on upland stream fish and invertebrate communities.

Galib, Shams M. and Findlay, John S. and Lucas, Martyn C. (2021) 'Strong impacts of signal crayfish invasion on upland stream fish and invertebrate communities.', Freshwater biology., 66 . pp. 223-240.


1. Impacts of invasive signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus on native species and ecosystems are widely recognised, but mostly through small‐scale studies and laboratory experiments that may not always reflect impacts in nature. Recorded effects of signal crayfish on fish populations are equivocal. In this study, using the before–after/control–impact and control–impact approaches, the effects of signal crayfish invasion on native fishes, particularly benthic fishes and young‐of‐year (YoY) salmonids, and macroinvertebrate communities, were determined on several spatial and temporal scales through three correlated study elements (S1–S3), in upland streams of the River Tees, England. In S1, we sampled fish and benthic macroinvertebrates of 18 streams identically in 2011 and 2018. These streams were categorised into two groups: (1) uninvaded (without signal crayfish in both sampling years; n = 7); and (2) invaded (with signal crayfish) streams, comprising pre‐invaded (invaded before 2011; n = 8) and newly invaded (invaded between 2011 and 2018, n = 3). Despite similar habitat conditions in both years (all variables p > 0.05) fish and macroinvertebrate communities changed over time in pre‐invaded streams and by comparison to uninvaded streams. A decline in the abundance of benthic fish and YoY salmonids was observed in pre‐invaded and newly invaded streams. Complete disappearance of bullhead Cottus perifretum following signal crayfish invasion was recorded in two pre‐invaded streams. In the second study, S2, we assessed within‐stream differences in fishes and macroinvertebrates in two Tees streams by comparing sections with (invaded) and without (uninvaded) signal crayfish. Compared to uninvaded sections, taxonomic richness and abundance of fish and macroinvertebrates were significantly lower in invaded sections, and the overall communities also differed significantly. In S3, long‐term data series (since 1990) of water quality and macroinvertebrates of six Tees streams comprising those invaded by signal crayfish (n = 3) and uninvaded (n = 3) were analysed. Water quality showed little change, or an improvement, over time but significant changes in the macroinvertebrate taxonomic richness and community structure occurred following signal crayfish invasion. Long‐term changes in macroinvertebrate communities in invaded streams tended to be due to declines in more sedentary taxa such as molluscs and cased trichopterans. Widespread and long‐term ecological disruption is occurring because of signal crayfish invasion in upland streams of the Tees catchment that may lead to a complete disappearance of some benthic fish species, as well as reduced densities of YoY salmonids and a shift towards less diverse macroinvertebrate communities, dominated by more mobile, crayfish‐resistant taxa.

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Publisher statement:© 2020 The Authors. Freshwater Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:16 September 2020
Date deposited:23 October 2020
Date of first online publication:16 October 2020
Date first made open access:23 October 2020

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