Environmental nitrate impacts foraging and agonistic behaviours of invasive non-native crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus and Faxonius virilis).
Invasive species often co-occur in nature and positive or negative interactions among them can affect community structure and ecosystem functioning. Outcomes depend on the intrinsic traits of the species involved and on how species' performance is affected by the environmental conditions of the recipient ecosystem. Here, we investigated the impact of nitrate, a nutrient common in urban and agricultural sewage discharges, on two invasive crayfish species (Pacifastacus leniusculus and Faxonius virilis) co-occurring in a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone in the UK. Crayfish were exposed to two ecologically relevant nitrate concentrations (≤ 10 and 50 mg NO3-/l) and seven traits relating to foraging success and interspecific interactions were assessed. During monospecific experimental trials, elevated nitrate had a similar impact on the foraging efficacy of P. leniusculus and F. virilis, reducing their ability to sense and find food. However, during dyadic interspecific competition experiments, higher nitrate caused a greater reduction in the number of aggressive behaviours of F. virilis towards P. leniusculus. As such, changes in environmental nitrate regime may affect interactions between these invasive species in regions of sympatry with consequences for their respective invasion dynamics and the wider ecosystem.