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Ecological impacts of the austral-most population of Crassostrea gigas in South America: a matter of time?

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Ecological Research

Abstract

The Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas is one of the most invasive species worldwide. This oyster has a preponderant ecological role in the invaded environments, for example structuring the benthic community through the provision of micro-habitats. Twenty-five years after its introduction in Argentina, the species is colonizing new areas along the coast, extending northwards and southwards its local distribution. In this study, we provide the first ecological characterization of the southern-most population of C. gigas; where the composition, density, richness and diversity of the macroinvertebrate assemblages associated with zones with oysters were compared with zones where it is absent at four different times of the year. Additionally, the main epibionts taxa settled on the oyster shells were studied. Our results showed differences in the assemblage composition between zones. However, these differences were not consistent throughout the year. Furthermore, density, richness and diversity were higher in the zones with oysters only in one of the surveys and the parameters did not differ between zones in the remaining months. Moreover, the majority of oysters were used as settlement substrate by the sessile common species present in the area. Thus, our work provides new information about the ecology of C. gigas in recently invaded areas that enhance our understanding of the role that facilitation plays in physically stressful ecosystems and the importance that density and time since the invasion may have in the engineering effects of the species.

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Acknowledgments

We are particularly grateful to Kelo Camarero and Raúl Cardón for their kind help and support in the field surveys. We thank F. Scarabino (gastropods), R. Elías (pycnogonids) and M.P. Raffo (hydrozoans and bryozoans) for their essential assistance with taxonomic identifications and S. Flaherty for assisting us with the English. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions that greatly improved the manuscript. The study was financially supported by PID 371 (Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica) and PIP CONICET 089 and 508 (to ES), FONCyT-PICT # 2206 (to AB and ES). Special thanks to the environmental authorities of Río Negro for allowing us to work in the area.

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Correspondence to María M. Mendez.

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Mendez, M.M., Schwindt, E., Bortolus, A. et al. Ecological impacts of the austral-most population of Crassostrea gigas in South America: a matter of time?. Ecol Res 30, 979–987 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-015-1298-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-015-1298-7

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