Habitat use by five sympatric Australian freshwater crayfish species (Parastacidae)
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1. The Grampians National Park in Victoria is a ‘hot spot’ for freshwater crayfish diversity, with seven species from six genera occurring in sympatry. Few studies have examined how multiple species of freshwater crayfish co-exist across landscapes consisting of a mosaic of perennial and seasonal habitats. Despite their endemicity and likely key role in freshwaters, the ecology and biology of these crayfish remains unknown.
2. This study determined the distribution and habitat use of five crayfish species (Euastacus bispinosus, Cherax destructor, Geocharax falcata, Gramastacus insolitus and Engaeus lyelli). Seasonal sampling surveys ascertained whether crayfish distribution was related to habitat type, environmental or physicochemical variables, catchment or season.
3. Distribution was directly related to habitat type and the environmental and physicochemical variables that characterised habitats. Engaeus lyelli, G. falcata and G. insolitus occurred predominantly in floodplain wetlands and flooded vegetation habitats, E. bispinosus occurred only in flowing soft-sediment channels and C. destructor was found in all catchments and habitat types studied. Gramastacus insolitus co-occurred with G. falcata at all sites except two, so no distinct habitat separations were apparent for these two species.
4. A high percentage cover of boulders was the best indicator of crayfish absence, and discriminated between habitat types and crayfish species: it was probably a surrogate for a larger range of environmental and physicochemical variables. Catchment and season did not affect crayfish distribution.
5. These crayfish species varied in their degree of habitat specialisation from strongly generalist (C. destructor) to occupying only a specific habitat type (E. bispinosus). Some species appeared specialised for seasonal wetlands (G. insolitus and G. falcata). Overlap in site occupancy also varied: G. insolitus and G. falcata distributions were strongly associated, whereas C. destructor appeared to occur opportunistically across habitats, both alone and co-occurring with all the other species.
6. Management strategies to conserve multiple species of crayfish co-existing within landscapes will need to incorporate a range of perennial and seasonal habitat types to ensure sufficient space is available for species to maintain different occupancy patterns. Given that water resources are under increasing pressure and are strongly regulated within the Grampians National Park, this may present a conservation challenge to water managers in this location.
|Publication Type:||Journal Article|
|Publisher:||Blackwell Publishing Ltd|
|Copyright:||© 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd|
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