, Volume 559, Issue 1, pp 113–122 | Cite as

The Decline of the Endangered Populations of the Native Freshwater Crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) in Southern Spain: It is Possible to Avoid Extinction?

Primary Research Paper


The southeastern mountains of Spain represent the southernmost limit of the genus Austropotamobius and the species A. pallipes (Lereboullet). The taxonomic position of this isolated crayfish in southern Spain is not clear, being genetically close to A. italicus, but morphologically distinct. A severe decline occurred during the 1980s, especially due to expansion of the alien species Procambarus clarkii, a North American freshwater crayfish and a vector of the aphanomycosis disease. In order to design a strategy for native crayfish conservation, recent trends in native crayfish populations, influence of isolation and habitat variables on their survival and possibilities for their recovery through restocking were studied. A decline in populations was observed between 1991 and 2002 (from 26 to 14 populations), and a total extinction could be predicted within the next 13 years. Two well-defined periods of rapid extinction rates were detected, 1991–1994 (1.25 populations/year) and 1999–2002 (1.50 populations/year). Main causes of extinction for these two periods were invasion by P. clarkii and mortality by unknown causes, respectively. The isolation variables had some positive effects on survival of populations but these cannot offer a sufficient guarantee, since several cases of extinction can be affected by a large component of stochastic factors, including random catastrophes. On the other hand, survival trials and restocking experiments showed that it was possible to recover lost habitats, when P. clarkii was absent and environmental conditions were good. It is concluded that it is possible to avoid extinction of the native crayfish populations; however, the conservation strategies must be based on an urgent stocking/restocking program.


Austropotamobius conservation extinction Southern Europe Spain 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jose María Gil-Sánchez
    • 1
  • Javier Alba-Tercedor
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Animal Biology and Ecology, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of GranadaGranadaSpain

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