The alien mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis invaded sand banks in Langebaan Lagoon on the west coast of South Africa in the mid-1990s. However, by 2001 these beds had completely died off, with only empty shells and anoxic sand remaining. In an effort to prevent the re-settlement of this aggressive invader, all dead mussel shells were then cleared. This study considered the impacts of the invasion and subsequent die-off on natural benthic communities. Community composition differed significantly between non-invaded and invaded areas (ANOSIM, R = 0.685 and P < 0.01) as the physical presence of mussel beds created a new habitat that promoted invasion by indigenous rocky-shore species. This dramatically increased faunal biomass from 1,132.9 g m−2 ± 3,454.7 SD to 53,262.4 g m−2 ± 23,052.6 SD and species richness from 38 to 49 species. Following the die-off of the mussel beds, communities remained significantly different between non-invaded areas and those in which mussel shells remained (ANOSIM, R = 0.663 and P < 0.01). Species richness was significantly greater in non-invaded areas (18 species) than in uncleared areas with remnant shells (four species) (Kruskal–Wallis ANOVA H2,36 = 10.8964 and P = 0.032), as the previously dominant rocky-shore species became smothered by sediment and the compacted shells formed an impermeable layer excluding sandy-shore burrowing organisms. After the shells were cleared, 50% of the sandy-shore species associated with non-invaded areas returned within 5 months, but community structure still remained significantly different to non-invaded areas (ANOSIM, R = 0.235 and P > 0.05). Invasion thus dramatically altered natural communities and although the subsequent removal of the dead mussel shells appears to have aided recovery, community composition remained different from the pre-invasion state after 5 months.
Centre Bank Polychaete Wallis ANOVA Empty Shell Mussel Shell
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We greatly appreciate funding from the National Research Foundation and Marine and Coastal Management through the Sea and the Coast Programme II, the Marine Biology Research Institute, the Andrew Mellon Foundation and the Centre for Invasion Biology. Thanks to numerous undergraduate students for help in the field.
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