Loss of diversity and degradation of wetlands as a result of introducing exotic crayfish

  • C.F. Rodríguez
  • E. BÉcares
  • M. Fernández-Aláez
  • C. Fernández-Aláez


The introduction of the alocthonous Louisiana red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) in Chozas (a small shallow lake situated in León (North-West Spain)) in 1996 switched the clear water conditions that harboured an abundant and a quite high richness of plants, invertebrates, amphibians and birds to a turbid one followed by strong losses in abundance and richness in the aforementioned groups. Crayfish exclusion experiments done in Chozas previous to this work confirmed the role of crayfish herbivorism on macrophyte destruction that had a trophic cascade effect on the wetland ecosystem. Direct and indirect effects of crayfish introduction on Chozas lake communities have been evaluated and compared with previous conditions before 1996 or with other related lakes in which crayfish were no present. Crayfish had a main role in submerged plant destruction and a potential effect on amphibia and macroinverte-brate population decrease. Plant destruction (99% plant coverage reduction) was directly related to invertebrates (71% losses in macroinvertebrate genera), amphibia (83% reductions in species), and waterfowls (52% reduction). Plant-eating birds were negatively a ected (75% losses in ducks species); nevertheless, fish and crayfish eating birds increased their presence since the introduction. Introduction of crayfish in shallow plant-dominated lakes in Spain is a main risk for richness maintenance in these endangered ecosystems.

Key words

alien species aquatic birds biodiversity crayfish ecosystem lake macrophytes wetland 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • C.F. Rodríguez
    • 1
  • E. BÉcares
    • 2
  • M. Fernández-Aláez
    • 2
  • C. Fernández-Aláez
    • 2
  1. 1.Instituto de Medio AmbienteUniversidad de LeónLeónSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de BiologíaUniversidad de LeónLeónSpain

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