Invasion biology and risk assessment of the recently introduced Chinese mystery snail, Bellamya (Cipangopaludina) chinensis (Gray, 1834), in the Rhine and Meuse River basins in Western Europe
With ecosystems increasingly supporting multiple invasive species, interactions among invaders could magnify or ameliorate the undesired consequences for native communities and ecosystems. We evaluated the individual and combined effects of rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) and Chinese mystery snails [Bellamya (=Cipangopaludina) chinensis] on native snail communities (Physa, Helisoma and Lymnaea sp.) and ecosystem attributes (algal chlorophyll a and nutrient concentrations). Both invaders are widespread in the USA and commonly co-occur within northern temperate lakes, underscoring the importance of understanding their singular and joint effects. An outdoor mesocosm experiment revealed that while the two invaders had only weakly negative effects upon one another, both negatively affected the abundance and biomass of native snails, and their combined presence drove one native species to extinction and reduced a second by >95%. Owing to its larger size and thicker shell, adult Bellamya were protected from crayfish attack relative to native species (especially Physa and Lymnaea), suggesting the co-occurrence of these invaders in nature could have elevated consequences for native communities. The per capita impacts of Orconectes (a snail predator) on native snails were substantially greater than those of Bellamya (a snail competitor). Crayfish predation also had a cascading effect by reducing native snail biomass, leading to increased periphyton growth. Bellamya, in contrast, reduced periphyton biomass, likely causing a reduction in growth by native lymnaeid snails. Bellamya also increased water column N:P ratio, possibly because of a low P excretion rate relative to native snail species. Together, these findings highlight the importance of understanding interactions among invasive species, which can have significant community- and ecosystem-level effects.