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Impact of the invasive amphipod Dikerogammarus villosus on trophic interactions under field conditions

  • The establishment of aquatic alien species can strongly affect community and food web structure of the invaded systems and thus represents a major threat to native biodiversity. One of the most important aquatic invasive species in European rivers is the Ponto-Caspian amphipod Dikerogammarus villosus. The species invaded most of the major European waterways within two decades, often associated with a decline of many other macroinvertebrate species, including other amphipods. Based on laboratory results predation by the so called ‘killer shrimp’ is often regarded as the key driver for observed displacement effects, but recent studies indicated a minor relevance of predation by D. villosus in the field. To allow the determination of exact predator-prey interactions from field samples, I established 22 group-specific rDNA primers for freshwater taxa suitable for prey species identification in dietary samples (Chapter II) and an approach for the screening of D. villosus gut contents using 16 of these primers. Combining genetic gut content analyses, with one of these primers, and stable isotope analyses, I examined the importance of intraguild predation (IGP) by D. villosus, which is often assumed the key driver for the displacement of native amphipod species, at an invasion front of the species in Switzerland (Chapter III). The results of this study revealed a low importance of IGP during this particular D. villosus invasion and indicated an overall sparsely predacious feeding behaviour of the species. As the feeding behaviour of D. villosus is supposed to differ between habitats and this study was only conducted at a few sampling sites of one river, I also investigated the role of predation by D. villosus at multiple sites of the River Rhine system, covering a broad range of microhabitats (Chapter IV). In keeping with the results from the invasion front results of this study strongly indicated a sparsely predacious feeding but rather a flexible feeding behaviour of D. villosus even within the same microhabitat. However, established populations of D. villosus have changed aquatic food webs and can be expected to affect aquatic-terrestrial energy fluxes. In Chapter V of my thesis, I present a field study investigating the impact of D. villosus on the diet of two riparian spider taxa. The results of this study indicate an effect of D. villosus on the terrestrial food web via cross-ecosystem resource flow. In conclusion, D. villosus influences terrestrial food webs by altering cross-ecosystem resource fluxes, but it is rather an opportunistic omnivore than a predator in the field.

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Author:Meike Koester
Referee:René Gergs, Andreas Martens
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of completion:2016/02/19
Date of publication:2016/02/23
Publishing institution:Universität Koblenz-Landau, Universitätsbibliothek
Granting institution:Universität Koblenz-Landau, Campus Landau, Fachbereich 7
Date of final exam:2016/02/05
Release Date:2016/02/23
Number of pages:53
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik
Licence (German):License LogoEs gilt das deutsche Urheberrecht: § 53 UrhG