Temperature, not salinity, drives impact of an emerging invasive species

Ross N. Cuthbert, Elizabeta Briski

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2 Citations (Scopus)
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Biological invasions are a growing ecological and socioeconomic problem worldwide. While robust predictions of impactful future invaders are urgently needed, understandings of invader impacts have been challenged by context-dependencies. In aquatic systems in particular, future climate change could alter the impacts of invasive non-native species. Widespread warming coupled with sea freshening may exacerbate ecological impacts of invaders in marine environments, compromising ecosystem structure, function and stability. We examined how multiple abiotic changes affect the potential ecological impact of an emerging invasive non-native species from the Ponto-Caspian region — a notorious origin hotspot for invaders, characterised by high salinity and temperature variation. Using a comparative functional response (feeding rates across prey densities) approach, the potential ecological impacts of the gammarid Pontogammarus maeoticus towards native chironomid prey were examined across a range of current and future temperature (18, 22 °C) and salinity (14, 10, 6, 2 ppt) regimes in a factorial design. Feeding rates of P. maeoticus on prey significantly increased with temperature (by 60%), but were not significantly affected by salinity regime. Gammarids displayed significant Type II functional responses, with attack rates not significantly affected by warming across all salinities. Handling times were, however, shortened by warming, and thus maximum feeding rates significantly increased, irrespective of salinity regime. Functional responses were significantly different following warming at high prey densities under all salinities, except under the ambient 10 ppt. Euryhalinity of invasive non-native species from the Ponto-Caspian region thus could allow sustained ecological impacts across a range of salinity regimes. These results corroborate high invasion success and field impacts of Ponto-Caspian gammarids in brackish through to freshwater ecosystems. Climate warming will likely worsen the potential ecological impact of P. maeoticus. With invasions growing worldwide, quantifications of how combined elements of climate change will alter the impacts of emerging invasive non-native species are needed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number146640
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date21 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


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