Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Drastic decline of an extensive eelgrass bed in Nova Scotia due to the activity of the invasive green crab (Carcinus maenas).

Abstract

In 2001-2002, there were severe declines of eelgrass (Zostera marina) in estuaries along the Nova Scotia coast of the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. We examined the relationship between the recent invasion of European green crabs (Carcinus maenas) and the eelgrass decline in Benoit Cove in Tracadie Harbour. The abnormally abundant eelgrass wrack consisted mainly of entire shoots, not the usual blades. Three separate methods yielded similar estimates of the rate of shoot removal from the eelgrass beds (direct quadrat counts, "mark-recapture" of tagged shoots in the eelgrass bed, and rate of shoot appearance in the shore wrack). From 14 July to 8 September 2002, the shoot density in the bed fell by about 75%. Similar rates of decline occurred in crab enclosures (4.4 crabs m-2) placed in the eelgrass bed. Green crab foraging, involving the tearing of shoots and the digging of large pits, was the reason for the drastic decline of the eelgrass bed in Benoit Cove. It is clear that an invasion of green crabs to a region where they had not previously existed can both destroy eelgrass beds and restrict their recovery.