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Alien molluscs affect the composition and diversity of native macroinvertebrates in a sandy flat of Lake Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Schmidlin, Stephanie, Schmera, Dénes, Baur, Bruno
Hydrobiologia 2012 v.679 no.1 pp. 233-249
Corbicula fluminea, Dreissena polymorpha, Potamopyrgus antipodarum, biodiversity, community structure, ducks, ecosystems, freshwater, freshwater molluscs, habitats, indigenous species, introduced species, lakes, macroinvertebrates, shell (molluscs), Switzerland
The spread of alien molluscs is a serious threat to native biodiversity in fresh waters. Alien freshwater molluscs may deplete the resources of native species and alter the physical structure of the habitat through their shell mass. These changes might have both positive and negative effects on native community members. We investigated the native macroinvertebrate community in relation to the densities of four alien mollusc species (Corbicula fluminea, Dreissena polymorpha, Potamopyrgus antipodarum and Lithoglyphus naticoides) in a sandy flat of Lake Neuchâtel, Switzerland. The habitat examined was dominated by these alien mollusc species. The abundance of the alien molluscs did not directly impact the native community assembly. However, C. fluminea and D. polymorpha influenced the composition and diversity of native macroinvertebrates by transforming the sandy substratum into a partly hard substratum habitat. Substantial differences in community composition between shallow (<3.5 m) and (≥5 m) deep sites were recorded. At shallow sites, the abundance of D. polymorpha was significantly reduced as a result of depth-selective feeding of ducks. A controlled shell decay study revealed that shells of alien molluscs (C. fluminea, D. polymorpha) persist for a longer period in the sediment than those of native molluscs. Consequently, shells of alien molluscs have a long-lasting impact by modifying the sandy habitat. This form of ecosystem engineering favours the occurrence of several native taxa, but is disadvantageous for other taxa with specific habitat requirements, and thus can be regarded as an indirect impact of competition.