Propagule pressure of an invasive crab overwhelms native biotic resistance.
Hollebone, Amanda L.
Hay, Mark E.
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Over the last decade, the porcelain crab Petrolisthes armatus invaded oyster reefs of Georgia, USA, at mean densities of up to 11 000 adults m–2. Interactions affecting the invasion are undocumented. We tested the effects of native species richness and composition on invasibility by constructing isolated reef communities with 0, 2, or 4 of the most common native species, by seeding adult P. armatus into a subset of the 4 native species communities and by constructing communities with and without native, predatory mud crabs. At 4 wk, recruitment of P. armatus juveniles to oyster shells lacking native species was 2.75 times greater than to the 2 native species treatment and 3.75 times greater than to the 4 native species treatment. The biotic resistance produced by 2 species of native filter feeders may have occurred due to competition with, or predation on, the settling juveniles of the filter feeding invasive crab. Adding adult porcelain crabs to communities with 4 native species enhanced recruitment by a significant 3-fold, and countered the effects of native biotic resistance. Differences in recruitment at Week 4 were lost by Weeks 8 and 12, when densities of recent recruits reached ~17 000 to 34 000 crabs m–2 across all treatments. Thus, native species richness slows initial invasion, but early colonists stimulate settlement by later ones and produce tremendous propagule pressure that overwhelms the effects of biotic resistance.