Original paper

Effects of the density of an invasive crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) on pelagic and surface microalgae in a Mediterranean wetland

Gherardi, Francesca; Lazzara, Luigi


To understand the relationship between the density of an introduced crayfish species (P. clarkii) and the abundance and composition of pelagic and surface microalgae (hereafter referred to as phytoplankton and phytoneuston, respectively) we ran an in situ experiment in a Mediterranean wetland. In May 2004, we delimited six 10 × 7m areas along a channel in the "Padule di Fucecchio" (Italy). Each area was randomly chosen to host crayfish populations at either low (1 crayfish/m2) or high densities (14 crayfish/m2). Phytoplankton and phytoneuston samplings were conducted in August and in September 2004, corresponding to the periods in which the highest and the lowest numbers of free-moving crayfish were found, respectively, during the lentic phase of the water regime. Results showed that (1) phytoneuston biomass, composed of cyanobacteria and, to a lesser extent, of euglenoids, was strongly affected by the presence of dense populations of P. clarkii in August; (2) crayfish seemed to modify the composition of microalgal communities; (3) these effects were not accompanied by significant differences between experimental areas in water chemistry and temperature; (4) physico-chemical measures highly varied with sampling periods along with a change in phytoplankton and phytoneuston abundance; and (5) high crayfish densities did not to exert any measurable effect on phytoplankton abundance. The decrease of phytoneuston may be the result of top-down effects of crayfish removing invertebrate grazers or, most likely, of direct grazing of crayfish. Indeed, crayfish were often observed climbing on macrophytes and feeding on the floating film.


invasive speciesphytoplanktonphytoneustoneutrophicationcyanobacterial bloomwetlandsprocambarus clarkii