Relative impacts of the invasive Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas, over the native blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, are mediated by flow velocity and food concentration.
The ecological impacts of invasive species can be severe, but are generally viewed as highly unpredictable. Recent methods combining per capita feeding rates, population abundances and environmental contexts have shown great utility in predicting invader impacts. Here, clearance rates of the invasive Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas, and native mussel, Mytilus edulis, were investigated in a laboratory experiment where oscillatory water flow and algal food concentrations were manipulated. Invasive oysters had lower clearance rates than native mussels in all experimental groups and did not differ among flow velocities or food concentrations. Native mussel clearance rates were higher at 5 cm s-1 compared to 0 and 15 cm s-1 flow velocities and increased with increasing food concentration. The Relative Impact Potential (RIP) metric was used to assess (i) the influence of flow velocity and food concentration on potential impacts of C. gigas on plankton resources and, (ii) the impacts of coexisting reefs, containing both species, on resources compared to monospecific native mussel beds. Greatest Relative Impact Potential of invasive oysters was seen at the lowest flow velocity, but became reduced with increasing flow velocity and food concentration. Relative Impact Potentials of coexisting reefs were generally greater than monospecific native mussel beds, with greatest impacts predicted at lowest flow velocity. We suggest that the greatest ecological impacts and competition potential of C. gigas will occur in areas with low flow velocity, but that increased flow will mediate co-existence between the two species.