1. Human activities have promoted the spread of species worldwide. Several crayfish species have been introduced into new areas, posing a threat to native crayfish and other biota. Invader success may depend on the ability to utilise a wide variety of habitats and resources. Successful invaders are generally expected to have broader niches and to be more plastic than non-invasive species.
2. Using stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen we compared the niche widths of native noble crayfish and introduced signal crayfish, a successful invader of Swedish streams. The calculation of niche width took account of between-site differences in basal resource isotope signature ranges. We also assessed whether population density, prey biomass or prey diversity affected niche width.
3. At the species level, signal crayfish had twice the niche width of noble crayfish. However, individual populations of noble crayfish and signal crayfish in Swedish streams had similar niche widths. This suggests that signal crayfish has greater plasticity with respect to habitat utilisation and feeding than noble crayfish. Niche width in both species correlated positively with benthic invertebrate biomass and diversity, indicating that animal food sources are important for crayfish.
4. We find that assessing niche width in relation to invader success can be a useful tool trying to predict the impact of invasions on different scales. The findings in this study suggest that invaders and natives will have a similar impact on the stream scale whereas the invader will have a larger impact on the regional scale due to the ability to utilise a wider range of streams.