Spatial ecology of white-clawed crayfish Austropotamobius pallipes and signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus in upland rivers, northern England
The American signal crayfish Pacifastacus lernusculus, an invasive species widely introduced throughout Europe, is a major threat to native European crayfish species and is causing increasing concern because of its wide impact on aquatic ecosystems. This thesis investigates the within catchment expansion of signal crayfish populations in two upland rivers and the spatial ecology and movement of the introduced signal crayfish and the indigenous white-clawed crayfish Austropotamobius pallipes. Populations of signal crayfish are established and expanding on the upland rivers Wharfe and Ure. On the Wharfe the signal crayfish population is well established and now occupies about 30 km of river and is currently expanding at a rate in excess of 2 km year(^-1). On the Ure the signal crayfish population is younger and currently occupies 1.6 km and is currently expanding at about 0.5 km year(^-1). The range expansion is biased towards downstream in both rivers, by a ratio of about 3:1 (downstream:upstream).The movements and dispersal of white-clawed and signal crayfish was studied utilising a combination of radiotelemetry and internal and external Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags. Radiotagged adult signal crayfish were capable of substantial active movements (maximum movement 790m in 79 days). The level of movement of adults suggests they may have the potential to be responsible for the observed rates of population expansion. Although the movements of radiotagged adult signal crayfish within main river channel were equally distributed upstream and downstream, in-stream barriers both natural and artificial were found to limit the upstream movements of PIT tagged crayfish and this may contribute to the observed downstream bias of signal crayfish population expansion. The movements and dispersal of PIT tagged white-clawed crayfish within a small upland high gradient stream were strongly biased towards downstream. Maximum movement of radiotagged adult signal crayfish occurred during midsummer. Temperature appeared to be a major factor influencing the timing and extent of movements between tracking periods although there was a large variation between individuals. All significant downstream movements made by crayfish were active movements and not the result of passive movement during periods of high discharge. There were no sex or size differences in the dispersal and movement of radiotagged and PIT tagged signal crayfish whilst in PIT tagged white-clawed crayfish size, sex, injuries and duration of tracking influenced extent of movement. The expansion of the signal crayfish population in the River Wharfe appears to lead to the progressive loss of white-clawed crayfish populations where they come into direct contact. Limited differences in the microhabitat utilised by the two species were found where the species were syntopic, suggesting the potential exists for direct competition between the two species. In addition signal crayfish showed greater movement and dispersal than white-clawed crayfish. This may contribute to the ability of signal crayfish to colonise rivers rapidly and may also offer a competitive advantage over white-clawed crayfish thus contributing to the observed replacement. The results are discussed in the context of the conservation and management of crayfish and the ecology of invasive species.