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Distribution patterns of the introduced encrusting bryozoan Conopeum chesapeakensis (Osburn 1944; Banta et al. 1995) in an estuarine environment in upper San Francisco Bay

Newcomer, Katherine, Marraffini, Michelle L., Chang, Andrew L.
Journal of experimental marine biology and ecology 2018 v.504 pp. 20-31
Bryozoa, Polychaeta, chlorophyll, estuaries, habitats, interspecific competition, introduced species, models, poly(vinyl chloride), salinity, temperature
The factors shaping the distributions of nonindigenous species (NIS) are of particular interest for understanding their success and potential impacts within their invaded ranges. In the San Francisco Bay estuary, the encrusting bryozoan Conopeum chesapeakensis (Osburn, 1944; Banta et al., 1995) occurs in peak abundances in lower salinity hard substrate habitats, with lower abundances upstream and downstream; however, little is known about the factors that control its distribution. To investigate several hypotheses about what allows this broadly tolerant invader to be numerically dominant in this region, a field transplant experiment was conducted across three sites in upper San Francisco Bay estuary. Colonies settled on PVC plates in the peak abundance zone and transplanted to upstream and downstream treatment sites, or returned to the settlement site, which served as a control. Salinity, temperature, chlorophyll a levels, and the abundance of interspecific competitors varied at each site and were measured throughout the experiment. Mixed effects models incorporating these measurements compared net growth rate and zooid size observed across treatment sites. Colonies transplanted upstream experienced high barnacle settlement, a potential competitive threat, and decreased salinity, and exhibited an average net growth rate of 6.60 zooids/day. Colonies at the control site faced almost no potential interspecific competition, intermediate salinity, and had an average net growth rate of 4.96 zooids/day. At the downstream site, colonies grew an average of 4.62 zooids/day and experienced high potential competition from serpulid polychaete settlement and the highest salinity of all sites. The best-fit models indicated that overall abundance of potential competitors, especially the serpulid Ficopomatus enigmaticus (Fauvel, 1923), was negatively correlated with the net growth rate of C. chesapeakensis colonies. Zooid size was also negatively correlated with F. enigmaticus abundance and temperature, though the relationship weakened over time. Many colonies at both the upstream and downstream transplant sites experienced fast initial growth following transplantation, but then experienced partial colony loss corresponding with an increase in the abundance of potential competitors. In contrast, colonies at the control site showed slow but continuous growth throughout the study in absence of interspecific competitors. These results suggest that the numerical dominance of C. chesapeakensis in upper-estuary habitat may be partly explained by a lack of potential interspecific competitors. As San Francisco Bay and other estuaries face high invasion pressure in brackish upper-estuarine regions, understanding which factors influence the distribution of NIS can help predict impacts to resident communities.