Comparative functional responses to explain the impact of sympatric invasive bivalves (Dreissena spp.) under different thermal regimes.
Risk assessment currently lacks reliable tools that can be applied across a range of environmental contexts to predict the success and impact of invasive species. A comparative functional response approach may offer insight and predictive power regarding the impacts of invasive bivalves. This could prove valuable in the management of invasive species that drive losses in ecosystem function and biodiversity. We conducted feeding experiments to assist in predicting the relative impact of two sympatric species of dreissenid mussel, the zebra and quagga (Dreissena polymorpha and D. rostiformis bugensis, respectively). Feeding rates and functional responses were calculated for each species under different 'contexts', including ranges of algal concentrations and temperatures. Clearance rates ranged from 10 to 44 ml/g mussel/h. Both species exhibited type I functional responses across all contexts studied. There were no differences in the clearance rates or functional responses between species at 4°C and 12°C. Thus, the competitive exclusion of zebra mussels by quagga mussels seen in nature does not appear to be driven by disparities in feeding efficiencies. Both species demonstrated elevated functional responses at the highest temperature (24°C) compared with the lowest temperature (4°C). Zebra mussels showed a significantly higher clearance rate than quagga mussels at 24°C. We conclude that total species abundance, rather than changes in species dominance, is likely to be more important for net species impact. Functional responses may offer considerable explanatory and predictive power under certain contexts; they are particularly fitting for sessile invasive bivalves due to their high feeding rates and the seasonal changes in algae abundance they experience.