Causes and effects of a highly successful marine invasion: Case-study of the introduced Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas in continental NW European estuaries

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Abstract

Since the 1960's, the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas has been introduced for mariculture at several locations within NW Europe. The oyster established itself everywhere and expanded rapidly throughout the receiving ecosystems, forming extensive and dense reef structures. It became clear that the Pacific oyster induced major changes in NW European estuaries. This paper reviews the causes of the Pacific oyster's remarkably successful establishment and spread in The Netherlands and neighbouring countries, and includes a comprehensive review of consequences for the receiving communities. Ecosystem engineering by C. gigas and a relative lack of natural enemies in receiving ecosystems are identified as the most important characteristics facilitating the invader's successful establishment and expansion. The Pacific oyster's large filtration capacity and eco-engineering characteristics induced many changes in receiving ecosystems. Different estuaries are affected differently; in the Dutch Oosterschelde estuary expanding stocks saturate the carrying capacity whereas in the Wadden Sea no such problems exist. In general, the Pacific oyster seems to fit well within continental NW European estuarine ecosystems and there is no evidence that the invader outcompetes native bivalves. C. gigas induces changes in plankton composition, habitat heterogeneity and biodiversity, carrying capacity, food webs and parasite life cycles. The case of the Pacific oyster in NW European estuaries is only one example in an increasing series of biological invasions mediated by human activities. This case-study will contribute to further elucidating general mechanisms in marine invasions; invasions that sometimes appear a threat, but can also contribute to ecological complexity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-165
JournalJournal of Sea Research
Volume64
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords

  • mussel mytilus-edulis
  • suspension-feeding bivalves
  • cockles cerastoderma-edule
  • enemy release hypothesis
  • northern wadden sea
  • long-term changes
  • biological invasions
  • japanese oyster
  • ecosystem engineers
  • filtration-rate

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