Biological Invasions

, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 1791–1804 | Cite as

Linking ocean conditions to year class strength of the invasive European green crab, Carcinus maenas

  • Sylvia Behrens YamadaEmail author
  • P. Michael Kosro
Original Paper


Once a non-native species arrives and survives in an area, its long-term persistence depends on its recruitment success. If conditions are not favorable for recruitment it will ultimately disappear. The European green crab (Carcinus maenas) has a 6 year life span and has persisted at low densities in Oregon and Washington coastal estuaries for the past 12 years. We show here that after the arrival of the strong founding year class of 1998, significant self-recruitment to the Oregon and Washington populations occurred only in 2003, 2005 and 2006. Warm winter water temperatures, high Pacific Decadal Oscillation and Multivariate ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) Indices in March, late spring transitions and weak southward shelf currents in March and April are all correlated with the these strong year classes. Cold winter water temperatures, low Pacific Decadal Oscillation Indices, early spring transitions and strong southward (and offshore) currents in March and April are linked to year class failure. Right now, green crabs are still too rare to exert a measurable effect on the native benthic community and on shellfish culture in Oregon and Washington. However, if their numbers were to increase, we would be able to predict the arrival of strong year classes from ocean conditions and alert managers and shellfish growers of possible increases in predation pressure from this invader.


Year class strength El Niño Pacific decadal oscillation Spring transition California current system Temperature limitation 



Catch data for 0-age European green crabs were compiled from Washington Department of Fisheries and Wildlife data files, Behrens Yamada et al. (2005), and status reports for Carcinus maenas in Oregon and Washington for 2002–2008 prepared by SBY for the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. We thank A. Randall for her dedication in helping to produce the nearly continuous data set for Willapa Bay. Water temperature data for Yaquina Bay were kindly provided by D. Specht of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, those for Willapa Bay, by S. Jaeger and B. Sackmann of the Washington State Department of Ecology while A. Helms of the South Slough Estuarine Research Reserve helped us obtain data for Coos Bay. We are especially thankful to P. S. McDonald for running his bioenergetics model to estimate the settling time of green crab larvae in Willapa Bay, Washington and for sharing his trapping data. L. Xue helped with statistical questions and Harry and Annette’s Fresh Fish supplied most of the bait. We thank A. Huyer and R.L. Smith for helpful discussions and H. Batchelder, T. Davidson, B. Hickey, W. G. Pearcy, W.T. Peterson, H. Queiroga, A. Schoener, A. L. Shanks and anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. This research was supported, in part, by the Pacific Marine Fisheries Commission (SBY) and, through the Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics (GLOBEC) program, by the National Science Foundation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (PMK); this is GLOBEC contribution # 647.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zoology DepartmentOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.College of Oceanic and Atmospheric SciencesOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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