Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Native predator limits the capacity of an invasive seastar to exploit a food-rich habitat.

Abstract

Biodiverse ecosystems are sometimes inherently resistant to invasion, but environmental change can facilitate invasion by disturbing natural communities and providing resources that are underutilised by native species. In such cases, sufficiently abundant native predators may help to limit invasive population growth. We studied native and invasive seastars feeding under two mussel aquaculture sites in south-east Australia, to determine whether food-rich farm habitats are likely to be reproductive hotspots for the invasive seastar (Asterias amurensis) and whether the larger native seastar (Coscinasterias muricata) reduces the value of the farms for the invader. We found that invaders were not significantly more abundant inside the farms, despite individuals residing within the farms having higher body condition metrics and reproductive investment than those outside. By contrast, the native seastar was 25 Ă— more abundant inside the two farms than outside. We observed several intraguild predation events and an absence of small invaders at the farms despite reports of high larval recruitment to these environments, consistent with some level of biotic control by the native predator. A laboratory choice experiment showed that invaders were strongly attracted to mussels except when the native predator was present. Together, these findings indicate that a combination of predation and predator evasion may play a role in reducing the value of food-rich anthropogenic habitats for this invasive species.