Potential effects of the invasive ‘killer shrimp’ (Dikerogammarus villosus) on macroinvertebrate assemblages and biomonitoring indices


Calum MacNeil, Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture, The Isle of Man Government, Thie Slieau Whallian, Foxdale Road, St. Johns IM4 3AS, Isle of Man.


1. Water quality monitoring data from 10 watercourses and laboratory mesocosm studies were used to assess the potential impacts of the crustacean amphipod invader Dikerogammarus villosus on resident macroinvertebrate assemblage structure in Central European fresh waters.

2. The presence of D. villosus was associated with a decline in the prevalence of many native species, pollution sensitive as well as pollution tolerant, and changes in biotic indices, despite the trends of improved water quality coinciding with the invasion period. A general increase in the prevalence of other invaders was also noted. The potential impacts of D. villosus were substratum dependent, differing between stone, concrete and sand-dominated sites.

3. Mean Multimetric Macroinvertebrate Index Flanders (MMIF) values were marginally lower when D. villosus was present (P < 0.06), as opposed to when other amphipod species or no amphipods were present, despite the improved water quality. Mesocosm studies showed that several macroinvertebrate taxa were completely eliminated in treatments with D. villosus, oligochaete worms, Caenidae mayfly, chironomids and tipulids being particularly vulnerable to D. villosus predation. Biological Monitoring Working Party (BMWP) scores were lower in mesocosms with D. villosus as opposed to the native Gammarus pulex or no amphipods at all.

4. We predict that resident macroinvertebrate assemblages in both Central Europe and Britain will come under increasing pressure as D. villosus invasions progress. Consequently, macroinvertebrate biotic indices, such as the MMIF or BMWP, may need to be revised to account for changes in taxa sensitivities to water quality as well as increased predation and competition.