Invading bivalves replaced native Mediterranean bivalves, with little effect on the local benthic community

Rei Diga*, Merav Gilboa, Raz Moskovich, Neomie Darmon, Tal Amit, Jonathan Belmaker, Gitai Yahel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The construction of the Suez Canal connected the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, which allowed rapid marine bio-invasion. Over the last century, several bivalve species have invaded the Levantine basin, yet their distribution and impact on the benthic community have not been thoroughly studied. Large-scale benthic surveys along the rocky substrate of the Israeli Mediterranean coastline indicate that invading bivalves, such as Spondylus spinosus, Brachidontes pharaonis, and Pinctada radiata, now dominate the rocky environment, with densities of tens to hundreds of individuals per m2. No native bivalve specimens were found in any of the transects surveyed. The small-scale ecological effects of the established invading populations on the benthic community were examined over a year using an in-situ exclusion experiment where all invading bivalves were either physically removed or poisoned and kept in place to maintain the physical effect of the shells. Surprisingly, the experimental exclusion showed a little measurable effect of bivalve presence on the invertebrate community in close vicinity (~ 1 m). Bivalve presence had a small, but statistically significant, effect only on the community composition of macroalgae, increasing the abundance of some filamentous macroalgae and reducing the cover of turf. The generally low impact of bivalves removal could be due to (1) wave activity and local currents dispersing the bivalve excreta, (2) high grazing pressure, possibly by invading herbivorous fish, reducing the bottom-up effect of increased nutrient input by the bivalves, or (3) the natural complexity of the rocky habitat masking the contribution of the increased complexity associated with the bivalve’s shell. We found that established invading bivalves have replaced native bivalve species, yet their exclusion has a negligible small-scale effect on the local benthic community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1441-1459
Number of pages19
JournalBiological Invasions
Volume25
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2023

Keywords

  • Brachidontes pharaonis
  • Chama pacifica
  • East Mediterranean
  • Invasive species
  • Lessepsian migration
  • Malleus regula
  • Pinctada radiata
  • Spondylus spinosus

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