Size-dependent effects of an invasive herbivorous snail (Pomacea canaliculata) on macrophytes and periphyton in Asian wetlands
- Department of Biology
- Division aquatic ecology
2. Here, we study the effects of snail populations with a size-structure typical of either populations at an invasive front or the size-structure of established populations. In an enclosure experiment performed in a wetland in Laos, we compared treatments with small snails only (3 mm; invasive treatment) to treatments with small, medium sized (10 mm) and adult (> 25 mm) snails (established treatment). The effects of snail grazing on three aquatic macrophyte species and periphytic algae were quantified.
3. We found that snails of all sizes had a strong negative effect on the biomass of all macrophyte species and periphytic algae. There was no evidence of an ontogenetic diet change, i.e. snails in both the invasive and established treatments affected macrophyte biomass. Foraging was size-dependent in that small snails had higher relative foraging capacity (g plant consumed per g of snail) compared with medium and adult snails. Small snails, therefore, depressed growth of medium snails at increasing densities through exploitative competition for preferred resources, while adult snails did not grow at all in the presence of small snails.
4. Density dependence is common in freshwater invertebrates, including gastropod populations, but differences in size dependent foraging- and competitive-ability have rarely been demonstrated in this group of organisms. Knowledge about intra-specific differences in ecological performance may, however, both deepen our understanding of the processes that underlie population dynamics in invertebrates such as gastropods, and help develop control strategies for invasive golden apple snails.
- ISSN: 0046-5070