Biological Invasions

, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 1355–1366 | Cite as

Fluctuating salinity improves survival of the invasive freshwater golden mussel at high salinity: implications for the introduction of aquatic species through estuarine ports

  • Francisco Sylvester
  • Daniel H. Cataldo
  • Carolina Notaro
  • Demetrio Boltovskoy
Original Paper


In order to evaluate the resistance to salinity as a factor enhancing freshwater invasiveness, we assessed the tolerance of the mussel Limnoperna fortunei to salinity conditions mimicking changes in an estuary. We tested mussel mortality in 30-day exposures to constant and fluctuating salinities at different temperatures in the laboratory. Test conditions simulated different seasons of the year and locations with increasing influence of marine waters in Río de la Plata, Argentina. Significant mortality (31 % after 30 days) was observed at a constant salinity of 2 ‰, increasing to 45 and 57 % at 5 and 10 ‰, respectively. In contrast, considerably greater tolerances were observed when conditions in the experimental chamber fluctuated between salt water and fresh water. No significant mortality was observed in mussels exposed to a salinity cycle with abrupt salinity changes ranging 1–23 ‰ (mean 2.68 ‰) over a month. Tolerance to this type of regime was unaffected by different temperatures within ambient ranges. Tests at constant salinity underestimate the tolerance of this and probably other freshwater nonindigenous species (NIS) to short-term saltwater exposures. Estuarine ports account for ca. 2/3 of non-marine ports globally, thus constituting donor and recipient hotspots for the spread of NIS propagules into continental aquatic ecosystems via shipping vectors. The tolerance of L. fortunei to estuarine conditions likely contributes to the species’ remarkable invasive success. These results highlight the need to determine causes of invasiveness and to study NIS traits not alone but in combination with transport network properties.


Limnoperna fortunei Salinity tolerance Invasiveness Ports Estuaries Propagule transport 



We are grateful to Raúl Guerrero for putting at our disposal the salinity record produced by the FREPLATA project, and to Diego Giberto for information and samples of L. fortunei collected in the Río de la Plata mixohaline area. Gerardo Cueto helped with the statistical analysis. Erik Thuesen, Ladd Johnson, and two anonymous reviewers provided very helpful comments on this work. This work was financed by grants from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA X-020 and 20020100100035) and from the Argentine Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (PICT 2007 1968) to DB.

Supplementary material

10530_2012_373_MOESM1_ESM.xls (26 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLS 39 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francisco Sylvester
    • 1
    • 2
  • Daniel H. Cataldo
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Carolina Notaro
    • 1
  • Demetrio Boltovskoy
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Departamento de Ecología, Genética y Evolución, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y NaturalesUniversidad de Buenos AiresBuenos AiresArgentina
  2. 2.Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y TécnicasBuenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia”Buenos AiresArgentina

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