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Differential recruitment of introduced Pacific oysters and native mussels at the North Sea coast: coexistence possible?

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Diederich, S. (2005): Differential recruitment of introduced Pacific oysters and native mussels at the North Sea coast: coexistence possible? , Journal of sea research, 53 , pp. 269-281 . doi: 10.1016/j.seares.2005.01.002
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Abstract:

Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas Thunberg 1793) have been introduced into the Wadden Sea (North Sea), where they settle on native mussel beds (Mytilus edulis L.), which represent the only extensive insular hard substrata in this soft-sediment environment. As abundances of C. gigas rose, some mussel beds became increasingly overgrown with oysters, whereas others did not. Field experiments revealed that recruitment of C. gigas was higher in the lower intertidal than in the upper subtidal zone, that it was higher on conspecifics than on mussels, and that it was not affected by barnacle epigrowth except when settling on mussels. Mussel recruitment is known from inter- and subtidal zones. It occurred equally on oyster and mussel shells but showed a clear preference for barnacle epigrowth over clean shells. Assuming that settlement and recruitment are key processes for species abundances on the North Sea coast, it is predicted that the positive feedback in oyster settlement will lead to rapid reef formation of this invader at the expense of mussel beds. Mussels, however, may escape competitive exclusion by settling between or on the larger oysters especially when barnacles are abundant. Experimental patches with mussels were more often covered by fucoid algae (Fucus vesiculosus forma mytili Nienburg) than patches with oysters, and oyster recruitment was poor underneath such algal canopies. Thus, fucoids may provide the native mussels with a refuge from the invading oysters and the two bivalves may coexist, provided food is not limiting.Keywords: Crassostrea gigas; Settlement; Mytilus edulis; Introduced species; Niche partitioning; North Sea

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