Does larval supply explain the low proliferation of the invasive gastropod Crepidula fornicata in a tidal estuary?
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- Rigal, F., Viard, F., Ayata, SD. et al. Biol Invasions (2010) 12: 3171. doi:10.1007/s10530-010-9708-9
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Human-mediated transport and aquaculture have promoted the establishment of non-indigenous species in many estuaries around the world over the last century. This phenomenon has been demonstrated as a major cause of biodiversity alterations, which has prompted scientists to provide explanations for the success or failure of biological invasions. Crepidula fornicata is a gastropod native from the East coast of North America which has successfully invaded many European bays and estuaries since the 19th century, with some noticeable exceptions. Its spread over Europe has been explained by a combination of human-mediated transport and natural dispersal through its long-lived planktonic larva. We here investigated whether larval supply may explain the failure in the proliferation of this species within a particular bay, the Bay of Morlaix (France). Patterns of larval distribution and larval size structure were analysed over ten sites sampled three times (20 July, 4 August and 21 August 2006), regarding characteristics of the adult population and environmental features. Our results evidenced a strong spatial structure in both larval abundance and size at the bay scale, even if larval abundances were low. In this scheme, the location of spawning adults played a critical role, with high numbers of early larvae above the main spawning location. The larval size structure further showed that settlement-stage larvae were rare, which suggested that released larvae might have been exported out of the bay. The use of an analytical model aimed to study the effect of tidal currents on the potential for larval exportation confirmed that larval retention within the bay might be low. The limitation in larval supply resulting from the interactions between spawning location and local hydrodynamics may thus impede the proliferation of this species which is well established for more than 50 years. This study provided an example of factors which may explain the failure of the transition between two major steps of biological invasions, i.e. sustainable establishment and proliferation.