Evaluating the role of invasive aquatic species as drivers of fine sediment-related river management problems: The case of the signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus)
Harvey GL., Moorhouse TP., Clifford NJ., Henshaw AJ., Johnson MF., Macdonald DW., Reid I., Rice SP.
Sediment quantity and quality are key considerations in the sustainable management of fluvial systems. Increasing attention is being paid to the role of aquatic biota as geomorphic agents, capable of altering the composition, mobilization and transport of fluvial sediments at various spatiotemporal scales. In this paper invasive species are presented as a special case since: (1) populations may not be constrained by factors characteristic of their native habitats; and (2) they represent a disturbance to which the system may not be resilient. Discussion is centred on the signal crayfish which has rapidly colonized catchments in Europe and Japan, but the hypotheses and models presented provide a framework applicable to other invasive species. This paper explores the mechanisms by which signal crayfish may influence sediment dynamics from the patch scale to the catchment scale. There is potential for signal crayfish to impact significantly on river sediments and morphology as a function of their interactions with river bed and bank material, and with other aquatic organisms, combined with their large body size and aggressive nature, their presence in very high densities, and the lack of effective mitigation strategies. Potential catchment-scale management issues arising from these factors include habitat degradation, mobilization of sediment-associated nutrients and contaminants, and sediment-related flood risks. Further interdisciplinary research is required at the interface between freshwater ecology, fluvial geomorphology and hydraulics, in order to quantify the significance and extent of these impacts. The paper points to the key research agendas that may now emerge. © The Author(s) 2011.