07 November 2019

Linzmaier, 2019

Linzmaier SM. 2019. Ecology and evolution in novel communities: The marbled crayfish and its interaction partners. Doctoral thesis, Department of Biology, Chemistry and Pharmacy, Freie Universität Berlin. http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/refubium-25647


Ecosystems worldwide are undergoing drastic changes caused by the intentional and unintentional transfer of species between them. This anthropogenic process has accelerated within the last centuries, creating novel ecosystems which harbor species assemblages devoid of a shared evolutionary history. When novel organisms interact with their new environment and the members of the invaded community, they often exhibit different or even new traits compared to established species. These interactions can thus be difficult to predict, and they can have far-reaching consequences on biotic and abiotic components of the ecosystem. Especially differences in trophic interactions and behaviors can cause the most severe repercussions of species invasions. Therefore, a deeper understanding of the mechanisms underlying the invasion process informs general ideas of community assembly and can help predict potential invasions and the risks associated with it. To gain an understanding of the interactions within novel communities, this dissertation combines empirical and theoretical approaches from the fields of community, invasion and behavioral ecology. The first chapter of the thesis presents a framework for risk assessments of novel organisms based on trophic interactions. A fundamental ecological principle, the functional response (i.e. the per-capita consumption rate as a function of resource density) is used to identify and quantify trophic traits of novel organisms linked to invasion success. The new approach presented in this chapter prioritizes and selects subsets of trophic links within the system in question and demonstrates the application of functional responses while including multiple potential interaction partners in the invaded system. The invasion of marbled crayfish Procambarus virginalis into Germany and a resident non-native congener (spiny-cheek crayfish Faxonius limosus) are used to illustrate the framework. However, the framework is applicable to a variety of novel organisms and invasion scenarios. The second chapter implements the framework from Chapter 1 by executing the aforementioned example within a laboratory study and the parameterization of a mechanistic functional response model. Predator-prey interactions between the crayfish species and individuals feeding on a key aquatic primary consumer (Dreissena spp.) are examined in great detail to mechanistically explain trophic-trait differences. Data from video-recordings of foraging and feeding events are used to model and predict functional responses from independently derived predation parameters. In addition, modeled and empirically observed functional responses are linked to individual behavioral traits. Furthermore, this chapter demonstrates and discusses the explanatory power of the predation parameters on functional responses. The third chapter assesses and compares behavioral traits that are important for the invasion success of crayfish species. Individual traits related to interspecific interactions – such as agonistic behavior between two crayfish and the response to predators, but also activity, which is related to foraging – are tested therein. In addition, correlations between behaviors, or so-called behavioral syndromes, are evaluated. This chapter also compares behavioral differences between naïve aquarium and naturalized individuals of marbled crayfish, and discusses the overall importance of the observed behavioral traits for novel communities. In the fourth and final chapter, the prey-choice of marbled crayfish compared to that of established spiny cheek crayfish from field sites were investigated in the laboratory and contrasted with diet data from invaded lakes. Also, the trophic position and trophic niche size are determined to assess the ecological function of each species. To understand what resources the species use and which prey items or resources are mostly impacted, preferences and consumption rates were measured in predator-free environments and computed from stable isotopes of lake ecosystems. This part of the dissertation delivers insights into the in situ impacts of marbled crayfish in invaded food webs by highlighting particularly important interactions in an ecosystem context. My thesis provides a novel interaction framework applicable for risk assessments of novel organisms (Chapter 1). It advances fundamental principles of ecology and invasion biology by providing a detailed, mechanistic examination and modeling of predator-prey interactions (Chapter 2), including the behavioral aspects (Chapter 3) and the food web effects (Chapter 4) of the novel, invasive marbled crayfish and a functionally similar comparator species, the spiny-cheek crayfish.

Keywords: ecological novelty • functional responses • freshwater crayfish • behavioral syndromes • biological invasions • over-invasions • trophic niche • predator–prey interactions

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