The effect of removal by trapping on body condition in populations of signal crayfish
Moorhouse TP., Macdonald DW.
Crayfish are amongst the most frequently introduced non-native aquatic organisms, with well-documented negative effects on a large number of freshwater taxa. Crayfish-control attempts often make use of manual removal by trapping, a method known preferentially to remove the largest individuals. Studies from aquaculture suggest that lowered population densities and the preferential removal of large individuals may result in non-removed individuals demonstrating increased growth rates. We test the hypothesis under wild conditions, that removal by trapping of American signal crayfish from a UK river would result in an improvement in body condition in the remaining crayfish. We studied four 100. m stretches of two rivers, the Evenlode and Thame, comprising two removal and two non-removal stretches. Each river supported both treatments. Half of the crayfish captured from the removal sections were removed and humanely destroyed by freezing. All crayfish captured from the non-removal sections were marked and returned at the point of capture. Crayfish were more likely to be captured if relatively large and with intact chelae. Catch per unit effort was reduced at the removal sites, and still remained significantly lower between capture sessions. The mean carapace length of crayfish was smaller at removal than non-removal sites. Over the course of the experiment, crayfish at the removal sites became progressively heavier for a given carapace length. The results of this study are consistent with expectations if removals reduced the population density, particularly of large, competitively dominant crayfish, resulting in higher growth rates in the remaining population. This study confirms the possibility that the effects of manual removal by trapping may be at least partially counteracted by density dependent effects improving the body condition of the non-removed portion of the population. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.