, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 947-963
Date: 07 Mar 2006

Dispersion and Ecological Impact of the Invasive Freshwater Bivalve Limnoperna fortunei in the Río de la Plata Watershed and Beyond

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Limnoperna fortunei is a freshwater bivalve that invaded South America through Río de la Plata estuary in 1989 and has since become a major macrofouling pest. Along the Paraná-Paraguay waterway, which hosts intense boat traffic, L. fortunei has moved upstream at an average rate of of 250 km per year. In contrast, along the Uruguay river, where boat traffic is restricted to the lowermost 200 km section, upstream colonization is almost 10-times slower. This suggests that attachment to vessels is by far the most important dispersion mechanism. It is suggested that the Amazon, Orinoco and Magdalena basins are under high risk of invasion by this mussel, especially through their estuarine gateways. All South American basins host innumerable water bodies with favorable conditions for L. fortunei’s colonization. Known ecological tolerance limits of the mussel also suggest that it may colonize much of the area from Central America to Canada, including waters that due to their low calcium contents, high temperature and pollution levels, and low oxygen are inadequate for the survival of Dreissena polymorpha. Despite it’s remarkable geographic expansion and its extremely high population densities, L. fortunei’s ecological effects have received very little attention so far. It is suggested that the 2.4-fold increase in Argentine landings of freshwater fish between 1992–1993 and 2000–2001 may be associated with the introduction of this prey species.