Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

The impacts of invasive ecosystem engineers in freshwaters: A review

Emery‐Butcher, H.E., Beatty, S.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-2620-2826 and Robson, B.J. (2020) The impacts of invasive ecosystem engineers in freshwaters: A review. Freshwater Biology . Early View.

Free to read:
*No subscription required


1. Invasive species are a key stressor in freshwater ecosystems. When these species are also ecosystem engineers, their impacts are exacerbated because they modulate resource availability for a wide range of other species. The aim of this review is to synthesise existing knowledge of the impacts of invasive ecosystem engineers in freshwaters and identify knowledge gaps requiring further research.

2. The four questions explored in this review are: (1) What are the trends in research into invasive ecosystem engineers? (2) What are common negative effects of invasive ecosystem engineers in freshwater? (3) Do all impacts of invasive ecosystem engineers have negative consequences for biodiversity? (4) What happens when multiple ecosystem engineers interact? Four literature searches in Web of Science have been used to identify articles for the review and to estimate relative research effort between terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems.

3. The number of research articles focusing on ecosystem engineers across all ecosystem types is increasing. Despite well‐known examples of ecosystem engineer species in freshwaters (e.g. beaver), more research has focussed on terrestrial environments and invasive species.

4. The effects of invasive ecosystem engineers in freshwater systems are varied and often context dependent. Their effects on biodiversity or native ecosystem engineers are often shown to be negative; however, not all effects associated with these species are deleterious to native species. For instance, some invasive ecosystem engineers support native species through the provision of food or refuges.

5. Although freshwater ecosystems are often influenced by multiple species of ecosystem engineers (including native, invasive or both), little is known about interactions between these species or the combined effects of multiple ecosystem engineers. More research is also needed that relates the results of laboratory experiments to the field and develops methods for measuring factors that govern the impact of engineers on ecosystems. Understanding the spatial variability of the impacts of invasive ecosystem engineers as well as their interaction with anthropogenic stressors (e.g. hydrologic modification) is also necessary.

6. The lag in research surrounding invasive ecosystem engineers in freshwater compared to other biomes is concerning, as freshwater ecosystems support biodiversity disproportionate to the area they occupy. Creating predictive models of the impacts of freshwater ecosystem engineers would help anticipate the effects of invasive ecosystem engineers in freshwater and add to the broader understanding of their effects in other biomes.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Copyright: © 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Item Control Page Item Control Page