Temporal variability in lotic macroinvertebrate communities associated with invasive signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) activity levels and substrate character

Invasive signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) are considered to be the most prevalent non-native crayfish species in Europe. Where large populations become established they have significant and long-term effects on benthic macroinvertebrate communities. However, much less is known about how community effects associated with crayfish invasion change in the short-term as a function of varying activity levels during the summer months. We examined the macroinvertebrate community composition of two lowland UK rivers, one which supported a well-established non-native crayfish population (invaded) and one in which crayfish had not been recorded (control). Colonisation cylinders were deployed which recorded community composition over a 126-day time period. Results indicate that once the activity period commences, invasive crayfish consistently altered macroinvertebrate community structure regardless of substrate character. Invaded communities displayed reduced beta-diversity compared to control sites. However, effects on the macroinvertebrate assemblage varied over the period when crayfish were active probably reflecting the behavioural activity of crayfish (which intensifies with increasing water temperature and during the spawning season) and life histories of other macroinvertebrates. The results indicate that crayfish invasions modify macroinvertebrate community composition, but over shorter timescales, the effects vary associated with their activity levels.