Invasion by the amphipod Gammarus pulex alters community composition of native freshwater macroinvertebrates

Authors


*Correspondence: David W. Kelly, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor, 401 Sunset Avenue, Windsor, Ontario, Canada N9B 3P4. E-mail: dwkelly@uwindsor.ca

ABSTRACT

Assessing the effects of invading species on native community structure is often confounded by environmental factors and weakened by lack of replicated, long-term pre- and post-invasion monitoring. Here, we uncouple the community effects of a freshwater amphipod invader from environmental differences. In Irish rivers, the introduced Gammarus pulex replaces the native Gammarus duebeni celticus. However, the River Lissan in Northern Ireland is dissected by a weir that has slowed the upstream invasion by G. pulex. This allowed us in 2000 to sample three contiguous 150-m reaches that were (1) G. pulex dominated; (2) mixed Gammarus spp.; and (3) G. duebeni celticus only. In 2003, we resampled these reaches and one additional of mixed Gammarus species and one with only G. duebeni celticus further upstream. In temperature, conductivity, and pH, there were statistically significant but no biologically relevant differences among the five reaches of 2003, and between the three reaches surveyed in both years. Although there was evidence of recovery in macroinvertebrate diversity and richness in invaded reaches between years, continued upstream invasion was associated with sustained reductions in these community metrics as compared to un-invaded sites. Community ordination indicated (1) different associations of community composition attributed to the distribution, abundance, and biomass of the invader; and (2) increasing similarity of invaded communities over time. The impact mechanisms of G. pulex on macroinvertebrate community composition may include predation and competition. The consequences of the observed community changes for ecosystem functioning require further investigation.

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