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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 415:177-187 (2010)  -  DOI:

Effects of invasive cordgrass on crab distributions and diets in a Chinese salt marsh

Haiming Qin1, Tianjiang Chu1, Wang Xu1, Guangchun Lei2, Zhongbin Chen1, Weimin Quan1, Jiakuan Chen1, Jihua Wu1,*

1Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Institute of Biodiversity Science, Fudan University, Shanghai 200433, PR China
2School of Nature Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, PR China
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: The effects of invasive cordgrass Spartina alterniflora on burrowing crab communities in the salt marshes of the Yangtze River Estuary, China, were studied. Crab abundance, distribution and diets were compared in native Phragmites australis and invasive S. alterniflora stands. Spartina-invaded stands had 42% higher crab density than did native P. australis stands, largely because 2 dominant grapsoid crabs, Helice tientsinensis and Chiromantes dehaani, thrived in S. alterniflora stands. Sediment grain size, water content and vegetation stem height were the main factors correlated with crab distributions. Crab diet analyses revealed that crab stomach fullness was similar in stands of different plant species, indicating that in Spartina-invaded stands crabs can find compatible food quantity as in native plant stands. Both H. tientsinensis and C. dehaani from S. alterniflora stands had significantly higher δ13C values than those from P. australis stands, suggesting that the crabs consumed S. alterniflora in the invasive marshes. This non-selective feeding may be driving the success of H. tientsinensis and C. dehaani in invasive Spartina stands.

KEY WORDS: Herbivores · Invasive species · Spartina alterniflora · Phragmites australis · Feeding habits · Gut contents · Stable isotopes · Yangtze River estuary

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Cite this article as: Qin H, Chu T, Xu W, Lei G and others (2010) Effects of invasive cordgrass on crab distributions and diets in a Chinese salt marsh. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 415:177-187.

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