MEPS 522:157-167 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11168

Facilitation in the low intertidal: effects of an invasive species on the structure of an estuarine macrozoobenthic assemblage

Adriana Novais1,*, Allan T. Souza2, Martina Ilarri3, Cláudia Pascoal1, Ronaldo Sousa1,2

1CBMA - Centre of Molecular and Environmental Biology, Department of Biology, University of Minho, Campos de Gualtar,
4710-057 Braga, Portugal
2Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR/CIMAR), University of Porto, Rua dos Bragas 289,
4050-123 Porto, Portugal
3ICBAS-UP – Abel Salazar Biomedical Sciences Institute, University of Porto, Rua de Jorge Viterbo Ferreira, 228,
4050-313, Porto, Portugal
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The Asian clam Corbicula fluminea (Müller, 1774) has been recognized as one of the most important invasive alien species in aquatic ecosystems and may have significant ecological and economic impacts. Recently, the presence of C. fluminea was associated with changes in benthic and epibenthic fauna. In this study, we aimed to understand the mechanisms underlying the effects of C. fluminea on an estuarine macrozoobenthic assemblage using a manipulative experiment. We used 5 different treatments (control, rock, closed, live, open), which were placed in a low sandy intertidal soft bottom area in the Minho estuary (NW Iberian Peninsula) for 2 months. We found that the presence of live and open empty shells of C. fluminea had positive effects on the density, biomass and species richness of macrozoobenthos, specifically on species belonging to Annelida, Mollusca and Crustacea. Our results may be explained by 2 main mechanisms: (1) the production of feces and pseudofeces by C. fluminea, which increases organic matter content and food resources for some macrozoobenthic species; and (2) ecosystem engineering activities by C. fluminea, which can create conditions for the establishment of other species via shell production and bioturbation in the sediments.


KEY WORDS: Corbicula fluminea · Alien species · Ecosystem engineering · Invertebrates · Minho estuary


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Cite this article as: Novais A, Souza AT, Ilarri M, Pascoal C, Sousa R (2015) Facilitation in the low intertidal: effects of an invasive species on the structure of an estuarine macrozoobenthic assemblage. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 522:157-167. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11168

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