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Thermogeography predicts the potential global range of the invasive European green crab (Carcinus maenas)


*T. J. Compton, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd, PO Box 1115, Hillcrest, Hamilton 3216, New Zealand.


Aim  The highly adaptable estuarine crab (Carcinus maenas) has successfully invaded five temperate geographic regions outside of its native Europe. Here, we determine which environmental factors predict the current distribution of C. maenas and what the potential geographic range of this species might be. We also investigated whether the invasion potential of C. maenas differs with respect to the origin of a native subpopulation.

Location  Models were developed using global observation records of C. maenas.

Methods  Boosted regression trees were used to model observations from the (1) native, (2) invasive, (3) southern European, (4) northern European and (5) the combined native and invasive geographic ranges of C. maenas.

Results  Most established invasions were predicted mainly based on temperature. Interestingly, the environment encountered by established invasions failed to predict the majority of northern European populations; suggesting that invasion potential may differ between distinct native populations. Supporting this suggestion, a model of northern European populations, distinguished from southern European populations based on genetic structure, only predicted established invasions south of Nova Scotia. By contrast, a model of southern European populations predicted most established invasions.

Main conclusions  These results suggest that invasion potential depends on the European origin of an invasive population and that most invasions have arisen from southern Europe. Finally, a model based on combined native and invasive ranges of C. maenas identified potential geographic range extension along many currently invaded coastlines and the potential invasion of countries like Chile, China, Russia, Namibia and New Zealand.