Invasive crayfish sabotages its own success, study says

phys.org | 3/28/2019 | Staff
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Since they were first released as live bait in the mid-twentieth century, rusty crayfish have roamed lake bottoms in northern Wisconsin, gobbling native fish eggs, destroying aquatic plants, and generally wreaking havoc on entire lake ecosystems. Today, in some lakes, traps can routinely pull up 50 to 100 rusty crayfish at a time, compared to two or three native species. But in other lakes nearby, populations seem to be declining. In a new study published in Ecology, scientists document the crash and explain what could be behind it.

"Some researchers have long proposed that invasive species should experience periods of population growth followed by periods of population decline, but very few have documented declines and even fewer have suggested a reason," says Eric Larson, assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois and lead author on the study.

Species - Populations - Crash - Managers - Control

Understanding when and why invasive species populations crash could help managers decide when and where to apply control efforts. After all, invasive species cost the U.S. economy more than $120 billion dollars annually in control and lost grazing, crop yield, and tourism revenue. Could land managers simply wait out some invasions? Larson thinks it's worth finding out.

Key to measuring population declines is a long-term view of invasive species population dynamics over time, but those kinds of datasets are rare. That's why Larson paired up with David M. Lodge, director of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell University. He has been keeping tabs on the rusty crayfish in northern Wisconsin lakes throughout his career, starting in 1983 at the University of Wisconsin and continuing through moves to the University of Notre Dame and Cornell.

Analysis - Years - Data - Collection - Term

"This analysis would have been impossible without our many years of data collection, highlighting how essential long term studies are for...
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