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Contrasting impacts of invasive engineers on freshwater ecosystems: an experiment and meta-analysis

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Invasion by common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) in shallow lakes have been followed by stable-state changes from a macrophyte-dominated clear water state to a phytoplankton-dominated turbid water state. Both invasive carp and crayfish are, therefore, possible drivers for catastrophic regime shifts. Despite these two species having been introduced into ecosystems world-wide, their relative significance on regime shifts remains largely unexplored. We compared the ecological impacts of carp and crayfish on submerged macrophytes, water quality, phytoplankton, nutrient dynamics, zooplankton and benthic macroinvertebrates by combining an enclosure experiment and a meta-analysis. The experiment was designed to examine how water quality and biological variables responded to increasing carp or crayfish biomass. We found that even at a low biomass, carp had large and positive impacts on suspended solids, phytoplankton and nutrients and negative impacts on benthic macroinvertebrates. In contrast, crayfish had a strong negative impact on submerged macrophytes. The impacts of crayfish on macrophytes were significantly greater than those of carp. The meta-analysis showed that both carp and crayfish have significant effects on submerged macrophytes, phytoplankton, nutrient dynamics and benthic macroinvertebrates, while zooplankton are affected by carp but not crayfish. It also indicated that crayfish have significantly greater impacts on macrophytes relative to carp. Overall, the meta-analysis largely supported the results of the experiment. Taken as a whole, our results show that both carp and crayfish have profound effects on community composition and ecosystem processes through combined consequences of bioturbation, excretion, consumption and non-consumptive destruction. However, key variables (e.g. macrophytes) relating to stable-state changes responded differently to increasing carp or crayfish biomass, indicating that they have differential ecosystem impacts.

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We are sincerely grateful to Azumi Saji, Jun Ishii, Min-Ho Jang and Hirokatsu Utagawa for their tireless help in the field, to Junko Yamamura and Megumi Nakagawa for chemical analyses, to Matthew Chumchal and Deborah Rudnick for providing data for our meta-analysis and to Taku Kadoya, Takehiro Sasaki, Munemitsu Akasaka and Takuya Kubo for help with the statistical analyses. We also thank Tadashi Miyashita, Keith Gido, Chad Hargrave, Mutsumi Nishida, Kohji Mabuchi, Takayuki Hanazato and Jun Nishihiro for valuable comments and suggestions on the study. Craig Osenberg and two anonymous referees significantly contributed to clarifying the manuscript. This study was funded by Grant-in-Aids from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan to N. Takamura (No. 15570025) and S. Matsuzaki (No. 1811493).

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Correspondence to Shin-ichiro S. Matsuzaki.

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Communicated by Craig Osenberg.

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Matsuzaki, S.S., Usio, N., Takamura, N. et al. Contrasting impacts of invasive engineers on freshwater ecosystems: an experiment and meta-analysis. Oecologia 158, 673–686 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-008-1180-1

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  • Common carp
  • Density manipulation experiment
  • Ecosystem engineering
  • Red swamp crayfish
  • Regime shifts