Distribution and community-level effects of the Chinese mystery snail (Bellamya chinensis) in northern Wisconsin lakes
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Managing invasive species requires information about their distributions and potential effects, but community-level impacts of invasive animals remain poorly understood. The Chinese mystery snail (Bellamya chinensis) is a large invasive gastropod that achieves high densities in waters across North America, yet little is known about its ecological significance in invaded systems. We surveyed 44 lakes to describe the patterns and determinants of B. chinensis distributions in northern Wisconsin, USA, and to assess the likelihood of effects on native snail communities in the invaded systems. B. chinensis was widespread among surveyed lakes (21 of 42 lakes with snails) and its occurrence was correlated with indicators of lake productivity and anthropogenic dispersal vectors (boat landings, distance to population centers, shoreline housing density). Some native snail species tended not to occur at sites where B. chinensis was abundant; among these was Lymnaea stagnalis, which suffered reduced survival in the presence of B. chinensis in a recently published mesocosm study. However, there was no difference in overall snail assemblage structure at either the site or lake level as a function of B. chinensis presence or abundance. Lake occurrences of many snail species have apparently been lost over time, but a comparison to a 1930s survey showed that there was no increased likelihood of species loss in lakes invaded by B. chinensis (or by the invasive crayfish Orconectes rusticus). Although B. chinensis is widespread and sometimes abundant in northern Wisconsin lakes, it does not appear to have strong systematic impacts on native snail assemblages.