Ben Thornes

Benefits of invasive shellfish for shorebirds

Tuesday 15th July 2014

Benefits to shorebirds from invasion of a non-native shellfish.

Introductions of non-native species have traditionally been seen as major threats to ecosystem function and biodiversity. However, invasions of aquatic habitats by non-native species are known to benefit generalist consumers that exhibit dietary switches and prey upon the exotic species in addition to or in preference to native ones. There is not however, significant knowledge concerning the population-level implications of such dietary changes.

This research finds that the introduction of the Manila clam (Tapes philippinarum) into European coastal waters has presented the Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus ostralegus) with a new food resource and resulted in a previously unknown predator-prey interaction between these species.

This research demonstrates, with an individuals-based simulation model, that the presence of this non-native shellfish, even at the current low density, has reduced the predicted over-winter mortality of oystercatchers at one recently invaded site, Poole Harbour.

Further increases in clam population density are predicted to have even more pronounced effects on the density dependence of oystercatcher over-winter mortality. These results suggest that if the Manila clam were to spread around European coastal waters, a process which is likely to be facilitated by global warming, this could have considerable benefits for many shellfish-eating shorebird populations.

Read the full article here.

Find out more about Professor Richard Stillman here.

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