Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 467–479

Effects of the invasive red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) on soft-bottom fauna in Varangerfjorden, northern Norway

  • Eivind Oug
  • Sabine K. J. Cochrane
  • Jan H. Sundet
  • Karl Norling
  • Hans C. Nilsson
"Marine Biodiversity under Change"


The red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) was introduced from the northern Pacific to the Russian Murman coast during the 1960s and 1970s. Over the subsequent decades, the crab has become established in northern Norwegian waters, where it continues spreading westward. The crab is an active predator on benthic fauna, especially feeding in deep soft-bottom environments. The present studies, carried out in the Varanger area close to the Russian border in 2007-2009, indicate that soft-bottom epifauna and infauna have become markedly reduced in crab-invaded areas. For infauna, quantitative data from 1994 were used as a basis to compare faunal composition before and after the crab became abundant in the area. It appeared that echinoderms, non-moving burrowing and tube-dwelling polychaetes, and most bivalves were reduced, whereas some small-sized polychaetes and small bivalves had increased. In situ sediment profile imagery (SPI) was used to examine sediment structure and biogenic activity. At several locations, the sediment habitat quality was degraded due to hypoxic conditions and low biological activity below surface layers. It is suggested that the crab has removed organisms performing important functions such as bio-irrigation and sediment reworking. Hence, it appears that the crab may reduce the functional diversity of the resident species assemblages, which may have overall implications for ecosystem function, production and responses to other environmental stressors.


Red king crab Benthos Predation Sedimentary environment Ecosystem implications 


  1. Aller RC (1982) The effect of macrobenthos on chemical properties of marine sediment and overlying water. In: McCall PL, Tevesz MJS (eds) Animal-sediment relations. Plenum Press, New York, pp 53–102Google Scholar
  2. Anisimova N, Manushin I (2008) Benthos as prey for the red king crab. In: Sundet JH, Berenboim B (eds) Research on the red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) from the Barents Sea in 2005-2007. IMR/PINRO Joint Report Series 3-2008, pp 32-36Google Scholar
  3. Anisimova N, Berenboim B, Gerasimova O, Manushin I, Pinchukov M (2005) On the effect of red king crab on some components of the Barents Sea ecosystem. Report PINRO, MurmanskGoogle Scholar
  4. Britayev TA, Rzhavsky AV, Pavlova LV, Dvoretskij AG (2010) Studies on impact of the alien Red King Crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) on the shallow water benthic communities of the Barents Sea. J Appl Ichthyol 26(suppl 2):66–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cunningham DT (1969) A study of the food and feeding relationship of the Alaskan king crab Paralithodes camtschatica. Master thesis, State College California, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  6. Didham RK, Hutchinson MA, Ewers RM, Gemmel NJ (2005) Are invasive species the drivers of ecological change? Trends Ecol Evol 20:470–474PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Feder HM, Paul AJ (1980) Food of the king crab Paralithodes camtschatica and the Dungeness crab, Cancer magister in Cook Inlet, Alaska. Proc Natl Shellfish Assoc 70:240–246Google Scholar
  8. Gray JS, Elliot M (2009) Ecology of marine sediments: from science to management, 2nd edn. OUP, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  9. Holte B, Oug E, Cochrane S (2004) Depth-related benthic macrofaunal biodiversity patterns in three undisturbed north Norwegian fjords. Sarsia 89:91–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Jewett SC, Feder HM (1982) Food and feeding habits of the king crab Paralithodes camtschatica near Kodiak Island, Alaska. Mar Biol 66:243–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jørgensen LL (2005) Impact scenario for an introduced decapod on Arctic epibenthic communities. Biol Invasions 7:949–957CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Karakassis I, Tsapakis M, Smith CJ, Rumohr H (2002) Fish farming impacts in the Mediterranean studied through sediment profiling imagery. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 227:125–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kuzmin S, Olsen S (1996) Barents Sea king crab (Paralithodes camtschatica). The transplantion experiments were successfull. ICES CM 1994/ K:12 Shellfish CommitteeGoogle Scholar
  14. Kuzmin S, Sundet JH (2000) Joint report for 2000 on the red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) investigations in the Barents Sea. Basic requirements for management of the stock. Norwegian Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture, BergenGoogle Scholar
  15. Larsen LH (1997) Soft-bottom macro invertebrate fauna of North Norwegian coastal waters with particular reference to sill-basins. Part one: Bottom topography and species diversity. Hydrobiologia 355:101–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lohrer A, Trush SF, Gibbs M (2004) Bioturbators enhance ecosystem function through complex biogeochemical interactions. Nature 43:1092–1095CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Manushin I, Anisimova N (2008a) Ecology of the red king crab in the Barents Sea. In: Sundet JH, Berenboim B (eds) Research on the red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) from the Barents Sea in 2005-2007. IMR/PINRO Joint Report Series 3-2008, pp 17-20Google Scholar
  18. Manushin I, Anisimova N (2008b) Selectivity in the red king crab feeding in the Barents Sea. In: Sundet JH, Berenboim B (eds) Research on the red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) from the Barents Sea in 2005-2007. IMR/PINRO Joint Report Series 3-2008, pp 24-28Google Scholar
  19. Mermillod-Blondin F, Rosenberg R, Francois-Carcaillet F, Norling K, Mauclaire L (2004) Influence of bioturbation by three benthic infaunal species on microbial communities and biogeochemical processes in marine sediment. Aquat Microb Ecol 36:271–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Nilssen EM (2003) Kongekrabbe i Barentshavet – biologi og utbredelse. Ottar 4/2003:7-12 (In Norwegian)Google Scholar
  21. Nilsson HC, Rosenberg R (1997) Benthic habitat quality assessment of an oxygen stressed fjord by surface and sediment profile images. J Mar Syst 11:249–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Nilsson HC, Rosenberg R. (2003) Effects on marine sedimentary habitats of experimental trawling analysed by sediment profile imagery. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 285-286: 453-463Google Scholar
  23. Norling K, Rosenberg R, Hulth S, Grémare A, Bonsdorff E (2007) Importance of functional biodiversity and species-specific traits of benthic fauna for ecosystem functions in marine sediment. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 332:11–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. O’Connor BDS, Costelloe J, Keegan BF, Roads DC (1989) The use of REMOTS technology in monitoring coastal enrichment resulting from mariculture. Mar Pollut Bull 8:384–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Olsgard F, Schaanning MT, Widdicombe S, Kendall MA, Austen MC (2008) Effects of bottom trawling on ecosystem functioning. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 366:123–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Orlov YI, Ivanov BG (1978) Introduction of Kamtchatka king crab Paralithodes camtschatica (Decapoda, Anomura, Lithodidae) into the Barents Sea. Mar Biol 48:373–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pielou EC (1969) An introduction to mathematical ecology. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. Pimentel D, Lach L, Zuniga R, Morrison D (2000) Environmental and economic costs of nonindigenous species in the United States. Bioscience 50:53–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rhoads DC, Cande S (1971) Sediment profile camera for in situ study of organism–sediment relations. Limnol Oceanogr 16:110–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rosenberg R, Nilsson HC, Diaz RJ (2001) Response of benthic fauna and changing sediment redox profiles over a hypoxic gradient. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 53:343–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rosenberg R, Agrenius S, Hellman B, Nilsson HC, Norling K (2002) Recovery of marine benthic habitats and fauna in a Swedish fjord following improved oxygen conditions. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 234:43–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rosenberg R, Blomqvist M, Nilsson HC, Cederwall H, Dimming A (2004) Marine quality assessment by use of benthic species-abundance distributions: a proposed new protocol within European Union Water Framework Directive. Mar Pollut Bull 49:728–739PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rumohr H, Schomann H (1992) REMOTS sediment profiles around an exploratory drilling rig in the southern North Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 91:303–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Skei J, Rygg B, Sørensen K (1995) Miljøundersøkelser i fjordsystemet utenfor Kirkenes i Finnmark, bløtbunnsfauna, sedimenter og partikler i vann juni 1994. Norwegian Institute for Water Research, report 3281, Oslo [in Norwegian]Google Scholar
  35. Solan M, Wigham BD, Hudson IR, Kennedy R, Coulon CH, Norling K, Nilsson HC, Rosenberg R (2004a) In situ quantification of bioturbation using time-lapse fluorescent sediment profile imaging (f-SPI), luminophore tracers and model simulation. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 271:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Solan M, Cardinale BJ, Downing AL, Engelhardt KAM, Ruesink JL, Srivastava DS (2004b) Extinction and ecosystem function in the marine benthos. Science 306:1177–1180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sundet JH (2009) Kongekrabbe. Chapter 2.8, Institute of Marine Research report, Kyst og Havbruk 2009, pp 105-107Google Scholar
  38. Sundet JH, Berenboim B (eds) (2008) Research on the red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) from the Barents Sea in 2005–2007. IMR/PINRO Joint Report Series 3/2008Google Scholar
  39. Sundet JH, Hjelset AM (2009) Seasonal depth distribution of the red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) in Varangerfjorden, northern Norway. Proceedings from Symposium on Biology and Management of Exploited Crab Populations. Alaska Sea Grant Program, Anchorage (in press)Google Scholar
  40. Sundet JH, Rafter EE, Nilssen E (1999) Sex and seasonal variation in the stomach content of the red king crab, Paralithodes camtschaticus in the southern Barents Sea. In: Klein CVV, Schram FR (eds) The biodiversity crisis and Crustacea. Balkema Publishers, Rotterdam, pp 193–200Google Scholar
  41. Takeuchi I (1967) Food of king crab, Paralithodes camtschatica, of the west coast of Kamchatka Peninsula, 1958-1964. Bull Hokkaido Reg Fish Res Lab 33:32-44 [in Japanese with English summary]Google Scholar
  42. Trimmer M, Petersen J, Sivyer BD, Mills C, Young E, Parker ER (2005) Impact of long-term benthic trawl disturbance on sediment sorting and biogeochemistry in the southern North Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 298:79–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wallentinus I, Nyberg CD (2007) Introduced marine organisms as habitat modifiers. Mar Pollut Bull 55:323–332PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wassmann P, Svendsen H, Keck A, Reigstad M (1996) Selected aspects of the physical oceanography and particle fluxes in fjords of northern Norway. J Mar Syst 8:53–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Senckenberg, Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eivind Oug
    • 1
  • Sabine K. J. Cochrane
    • 2
  • Jan H. Sundet
    • 3
  • Karl Norling
    • 4
  • Hans C. Nilsson
    • 4
  1. 1.Norwegian Institute for Water ResearchGrimstadNorway
  2. 2.Akvaplan-nivaFRAM—High North Research Centre for Climate and the EnvironmentTromsøNorway
  3. 3.Institute of Marine ResearchTromsøNorway
  4. 4.Norwegian Institute for Water ResearchOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations