Biological Invasions

, Volume 11, Issue 10, pp 2367–2385 | Cite as

Non-indigenous invasive bivalves as ecosystem engineers

  • Ronaldo SousaEmail author
  • Jorge L. Gutiérrez
  • David C. Aldridge
Original Paper


Several non-indigenous bivalve species have been colonising aquatic ecosystems worldwide, in some cases with great ecological and economic impacts. In this paper, we focus on the ecosystem engineering attributes of non-indigenous invasive bivalves (i.e., the capacities of these organisms to directly or indirectly affect the availability of resources to other species by physically modifying the environment). By reviewing the ecology of several invasive bivalves we identify a variety of mechanisms via which they modify, maintain and/or create habitats. Given the usually high densities and broad spatial distributions of such bivalves, their engineering activities can significantly alter ecosystem structure and functioning (e.g., changes in sediment chemistry, grain size, and organic matter content via bioturbation, increased light penetration into the water column due to filter feeding, changes in near bed flows and shear stress due to the presence of shells, provision of colonisable substrate and refuges by shells). In addition, changes in ecosystem structure and functioning due to engineering by invasive bivalves often have very large economic impacts. Given the worldwide spread of non-indigenous bivalves and the varied ways in which they physically modify habitats, their engineering effects should receive more serious consideration in restoration and management initiatives.


Ecosystem engineers Non-indigenous bivalves Ecological impacts Economic impacts Ecosystem functioning Review 



Ronaldo Sousa is supported by a postdoctoral grant from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology—FCT (SFRH/BPD/43570/2008). Special thanks to Clive Jones and Pedro Morais for helpful suggestions on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronaldo Sousa
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jorge L. Gutiérrez
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • David C. Aldridge
    • 2
  1. 1.CIMAR/CIIMAR – Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e AmbientalUniversidade do PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.Aquatic Ecology Group, Department of ZoologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y NaturalesUniversidad Nacional de Mar del PlataMar del PlataArgentina
  4. 4.Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)Buenos AiresArgentina
  5. 5.Grupo de Investigación y Educación en Temas Ambientales (GrIETA)Mar del PlataArgentina
  6. 6.Cary Institute of Ecosystem StudiesMillbrookUSA

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