Colonization of freshwater habitats by an introduced crayfish, Procambarus clarkii, in Southwest Iberian Peninsula
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The introduction of some crustacean species has produced alterations of freshwater environments and declines of native species worldwide. The red swamp crayfish, Procambarus clarkii Girard, was introduced in the Southwest Iberian Peninsula in the 1970’s, producing severe impacts on rice agriculture and on native biota such as macrophytes, gastropods, native crayfish and amphibians. We studied the distribution of P. clarkii in two areas of SW Iberian Peninsula: the Sado River basin (SW Portugal), an area colonized by this species around 1990, and the Parque Natural del Entorno de Doñana (SW Spain), colonized soon after its introduction in the Iberian Peninsula, in the 1970’s. Our main goal was to determine which factors limit crayfish distribution, which could help to identify the most effective management practices to contain its spread. Procambarus clarkii was found in most types of water bodies, including small and shallow ones. Distance to a crayfish source was the single predictor variable explaining crayfish occurrence in most types of habitats and in both areas. The only exception was for the Sado permanent stream points, where crayfish presence was negatively affected by an interaction between elevation and flow velocity. Other habitat characteristics have apparently little or no importance for its successful colonization. Moreover, this study indicated that overland dispersal is apparently a frequent phenomenon in this species. Our findings can be used to determine which habitats are most likely to be colonized by the crayfish and to develop practical measures which may limit its spread and minimize its impacts.
KeywordsDistribution Ecological requirements Exotic species Freshwater crayfish Mediterranean Procambarus clarkii
We thank M. Tejedo for precious help in the visits to Doñana, A.Sumares, P. Andrade, S. Amaral and S. Pascoal for their help in the field work, and R. Braz for the map production. This research was supported by a FCT and FSE grant (SFRH/BD/6286/2001), by Project PNAT/1999/BIA/15039/C of FCT and ICN, and by the European Community-Access to Research Infrastructure Action of the Improving Human Potential Programme in Doñana Biological Station (Ecodoca).
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