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Species coexistence and the superior ability of an invasive species to exploit a facilitation cascade habitat

journal contribution
posted on 24.04.2018, 00:00 by AH Altieri, Andrew IrvingAndrew Irving
Facilitation cascades generated by co-occurring foundation species can enhance the abundance and diversity of associated organisms. However, it remains poorly understood how differences among native and invasive species in their ability to exploit these positive interactions contribute to emergent patterns of community structure and biotic acceptance. On intertidal shorelines in New England, we examined the patterns of coexistence between the native mud crabs and the invasive Asian shore crab in and out of a facilitation cascade habitat generated by mid intertidal cordgrass and ribbed mussels. These crab species co-occurred in low intertidal cobbles adjacent to the cordgrass-mussel beds, despite experimental findings that the dominant mud crabs can kill and displace Asian shore crabs and thereby limit their successful recruitment to their shared habitat. A difference between the native and invasive species in their utilization of the facilitation cascade likely contributes to this pattern. Only the Asian shore crabs inhabit the cordgrass-mussel beds, despite experimental evidence that both species can similarly benefit from stress amelioration in the beds. Moreover, only Asian shore crabs settle in the beds, which function as a nursery habitat free of lethal mud crabs, and where their recruitment rates are particularly high (nearly an order of magnitude higher than outside beds). Persistence of invasive adult Asian shore crabs among the dominant native mud crabs in the low cobble zone is likely enhanced by a spillover effect of the facilitation cascade in which recruitment-limited Asian shore crabs settle in the mid intertidal cordgrass-mussel beds and subsidize their vulnerable populations in the adjacent low cobble zone. This would explain why the abundances of Asian shore crabs in cobbles are doubled when adjacent to facilitation cascade habitats. The propensity for this exotic species to utilize habitats created by facilitation cascades, despite the lack of a shared evolutionary history, contributes to species coexistence and the acceptance of invasives into a diverse community. © 2017 Altieri and Irving.






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PeerJ, UK

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CC-BY 4.0

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Open Access


External Author Affiliations

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa

Era Eligible