Understanding where, when, and how native species persist in the face of invasive species-driven ecosystem change is critical for invasive species management and native species conservation. In some cases, ecological interactions among native and invasive species are spatially structured, and spatial segregation can be a key coexistence mechanism for ecologically similar taxa. We evaluated 19-years of spatially explicit crayfish community data from a long-term whole-lake experiment, which includes 8 years of invasive rusty crayfish (Faxonius rusticus) removal followed by 11 years of post-removal data collection. We quantified the within lake spatiotemporal patterns of virile crayfish (F. virilis) and rusty crayfish, and relate their dynamics to site-level habitat conditions. In response to removal efforts, rusty crayfish catch rates declined by >95%, and native virile crayfish catch rates increased by more than 20-fold. Ten years after ceasing removals, rusty crayfish have stayed at this relatively low abundance, and the virile crayfish population has remained stable. During removal, rusty crayfish abundances decreased non-uniformly throughout the lake. Only after rusty crayfish populations were at their lowest levels did the native virile crayfish population begin to show signs of a recovery. Virile crayfish recovery was highly localized within the lake, and likely influenced by habitat and rusty crayfish abundance. Initially, virile crayfish made the most substantial resurgence in an area of the lake with rocky habitat conditions, but through time their distribution shifted into adjacent suboptimal macrophyte and muck habitats as rusty crayfish became more abundant in nearby areas. In general, when the two species overlapped in space, virile crayfish abundance stayed low, or the population shifted to adjacent areas with fewer competitively dominant rusty crayfish. Our results suggest that habitat heterogeneity allowed virile crayfish to maintain a foothold despite high rusty crayfish densities. Removal efforts led to the recovery of virile crayfish, and spatial segregation facilitated both species coexisting at comparable abundances for a decade. Our results highlight that invasive species control, even in the absence of complete eradication, can benefit native species and that spatially structured interactions can promote coexistence.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Our research was supported by the NTL‐LTER Program (DEB‐1440297), and a Graduate Engineering Research Scholars Fellowship and an NSF‐IGERT traineeship (DGE‐1144752) provided to K. Martin Perales. We thank Tony Ives, John Lyons, Volker Radeloff, Emily Stanley, Steve Carpenter, John Magnuson, Noah Lottig, Vincent Butitta, Michael Spear, Holly Embke and Rob Mooney for their contributions to this study and for providing helpful discussion and comments. Special thanks to Matt Chotlos and Ishita Aghi for early discussions on the role of spatiotemporal variability in crayfish. We thank all those involved with the data collection, who spent countless hours in the field. This project was collected by several generations of graduate and undergraduate scientists, many of them as volunteers, and we are grateful for their contributions to this study.
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
- invasive species
- spatiotemporal dynamics