Biological Invasions

, Volume 8, Issue 8, pp 1673–1680 | Cite as

How bad are invaders in coastal waters? The case of the American slipper limpet Crepidula fornicata in western Europe

  • David W. Thieltges
  • Matthias Strasser
  • Karsten Reise
Perpectives and Paradigms


Introduced species are assumed to exert a variety of negative ecological effects in their new environments. However, rigid studies on such effects are still rare. Using a case study we exemplify pitfalls and obstacles for research on ecological effects of invaders and highlight the need for a concise framework. The suspension feeding gastropod Crepidula fornicata was accidentally introduced with American oysters to Europe and was soon after defamed as an ‘oyster pest’ although no evidence was provided in justification. Recently, small-scale experiments with C. fornicata and the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas failed to prove competition. As an epizootic, however, C. fornicata is impeding native mussels Mytilus edulis but at the same time provides protection against starfish predation. It also may serve as a sink for infectious trematode parasites and hence be beneficial for bivalve basibionts. Another positive effect of C. fornicata, especially at the coast of France where it is superabundant, may be that it causes a shift of phytoplankton blooms from toxic flagellates to diatoms. The multiple interactions with recipient coastal ecosystems result in a complex interplay of negative as well as positive effects of the invader on native biota. Positive effects of invaders might occur with the same frequency as negative ones, and the general prejudice that introduced species exert per se a negative effect may dictate the outcome of research. We argue that considering both, negative as well as positive effects of an introduced species is needed to eventually enable us to evaluate the overall effect of an invasion on recipient ecosystems. Besides pointing to the importance of positive effects, this case study also shows that research on effects of introduced species should (1) be species specific, (2) consider different spatial scales, (3) clarify which stage of an invasive process is under observation and (4) clearly distinguish between ecological effects, human-relevant impacts and the ethical judgment of both. A concise framework for research on ecological effects of introduced species – which still has to be developed – should incorporate these aspects.


case study ecological effect human-relevant impact introduced species positive effects 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • David W. Thieltges
    • 1
  • Matthias Strasser
    • 1
  • Karsten Reise
    • 1
  1. 1.Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine ResearchWadden Sea Station SyltListGermany

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