Subterranean invasion by gapped ringed crayfish: effectiveness of a removal effort and barrier installation.
Non-native crayfish invasion is a major threat to many stream fauna; however, invasions in subterranean habitats are rarely documented. Our study objectives were to examine demographics and morphological and life-history traits of a gapped ringed crayfish Faxonius neglectus chaenodactylus population that invaded Tumbling Creek Cave and determine the effects of removal on the population. Crayfish were found throughout the cave though fewer individuals were observed upstream of an installed weir. Fecund females were collected in nearly all months, but were prevalent during spring (February-June). Males and females were of similar sizes. Males had larger chelae and chelae that were regenerated slightly more often than females. Removal of >4000 crayfish since 2011 resulted in reduced abundances, but the population persisted. Age estimates from counting bands on gastric mills indicated crayfish within the cave lived longer than populations in nearby Big Creek (6 vs. 4 years). Recent efforts to prevent upstream cave migrations included a barrier installation and since installation, few crayfish have been located upstream. We show that exploitation of new environments may lead to trait changes (i.e., reproduction and longevity). We also demonstrate that barriers reduce the spread of invasion at a comparable cost to removal. We hypothesize that increased reservoir elevation inundates springs hydrologically connected to the cave and this may be the invasion source.