Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

An ecological imbalance induced by a non-native species: the Manila clam in the Venice Lagoon.

Abstract

Among the 19 non-native species of marine invertebrates which have invaded the Venice Lagoon and have established populations, Ruditapes philippinarum, deliberately introduced in 1983, is surely the most successful species. According to the hypothesis that alien species invasion could be favoured by an altered ecological, chemical or physical state of the system induced by anthropogenic disturbance, R. philippinarum turned out to be 'the right species at the right moment'. By comparing historical data (1968, 1985, 1990) with 1999 data, changes in macrobenthic community, in particular bivalve molluscs, of the lagoon induced by R. philippinarum introduction and subsequent clam exploiting activity were assessed. It has been possible to describe a sharp reduction, both in terms of distribution area and density, of all other filter feeder bivalves. Moreover, by using the clearance rate of the most abundant bivalve species in 1990 and 1999 (Cerastoderma glaucum and R. philippinarum, respectively), it was possible to estimate that the filtration capacity, expressed as l h-1 m-2, has more than doubled. This has altered the functioning of the ecosystem, resulting in a stronger benthic-pelagic coupling. In this context, R. philippinarum attains control of the system. Considering all this, it is possible to state that the Venice Lagoon ecosystem has entered into a new state, probably more resistant but less resilient, with implications for future management choices.