Does the introduced signal crayfish occupy an equivalent trophic niche to the lost native noble crayfish in boreal lakes?
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The introduced North-American signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) has become widespread throughout Europe where it has often replaced the native noble crayfish (Astacus astacus). The impact of this replacement on ecosystem processes in boreal lakes is still largely unknown. We compared the trophic niches of these two crayfish species in 16 small to medium sized boreal lakes in southern Finland; eight lakes with noble crayfish and eight lakes where the native crayfish populations had been lost and replaced by signal crayfish. We analysed carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes from samples of the crayfish and their putative food sources, and used stable isotope models to compare trophic niche widths of the two species of crayfish and to quantify the food sources used by them. At species level the signal crayfish exhibited a substantially larger trophic niche than that of the noble crayfish, but within-lake populations of the species did not differ in their niche widths. The isotopic niches of the two species strongly overlapped, and while the estimated proportions of food resources (profundal and littoral macroinvertebrates, terrestrial leaf detritus and macrophytes) used by crayfish varied considerably among individual populations, they did not differ consistently between the species. Our results suggest that, contrary to often expressed concerns, replacement of lost noble crayfish populations by the signal crayfish may not greatly alter the littoral food web structure in boreal lakes.
KeywordsInvasive species Niche width Stable isotopes Food sources Boreal lakes
We thank Kimmo Sivonen for his valuable field work assistance and Tuula Sinisalo for assistance in the stable isotope laboratory. We also thank Finnish Game and Fisheries Institute to have provided crayfish monitoring data in all studied lakes. This study was supported by the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation, the Finnish Cultural Foundation.
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