Ecological Impact of the Introduction to New Zealand of Asian Date Mussels and Cordgrass—The Foraminiferal, Ostracod and Molluscan Record
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The ecological impact from the establishment of dense intertidal beds of introduced Asian date mussels (Musculista senhousia) and cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) in five northern New Zealand estuaries and harbours was documented in 2005–2006, using the fossil record of the shells of foraminifera, ostracods and molluscs in paired sediment cores and surface samples taken from inside and outside selected beds. The most significant changes in faunal composition in all, but the most saline sites, generally occurred in both cores in each pair and could be attributed to the impact of decreased salinity and pH as a result of increased freshwater runoff following clearance of the surrounding forest in the 19th century and urban development in the late 20th century. Establishment of Asian date mussel beds had a greatest impact on the composition of ostracod faunas. At near oceanic salinity, the mussels had completely replaced the native infaunal bivalve fauna, but had little impact on the foraminifera. At more brackish sites, the presence of mussel shells appears to have buffered the calcareous foraminifera from the effects of lowered pH, which had dissolved this component outside the beds. Establishment of cordgrass patches had no impact on ostracod faunas, and little on molluscs except at Kaipara, where introduced Pacific oysters had colonised the cordgrass. Cordgrass had the most impact on the foraminifera. At brackish sites, cordgrass patches had been colonised by agglutinated foraminiferal species different from those that dominate outside. In cordgrass at more saline sites, agglutinated foraminifera have invaded and bloomed at the expense of calcareous Ammonia spp., which dominated outside the patches.