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Linking environmental warming to the fitness of the invasive clam Corbicula fluminea

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Climate warming is discussed as a factor that can favour the success of invasive species. In the present study, we analysed potential fitness gains of moderate warming (3 °C above field temperature) on the invasive clam Corbicula fluminea during summer and winter. The experiments were conducted under seminatural conditions in a bypass-system of a large river (Rhine, Germany). We showed that warming in late summer results in a significant decrease in the clams' growth rates (body mass and shell length increase) and an increase in mortality rate. The addition of planktonic food dampens the negative effect of warming on the growth rates. This suggests that the reason for the negative growth effect of temperature increase in late summer is a negative energetic balance caused by an enhanced metabolic rate at limited food levels. Warming during early summer revealed contrasting effects with respect of body mass (no warming effect) and shell length (increased shell growth with warming). This differential control of both parameters further enhances the loss of the relative (size-specific) body mass with warming. In contrast, warming in winter had a consistently positive effect on the clams' growth rate as demonstrated in two independent experiments. Furthermore, the reproduction success (as measured by the average number of larvae per clam) during the main breeding period (April) was strongly enhanced by experimental warming during winter, i.e. by eight times during the relatively cold winter 2005/2006 and by 2.6 times during the relatively warm winter 2007/2008. This strong, positive effect of moderate winter warming on the clams' fitness is probably one reason for the recent invasion success of C. fluminea in the northern hemisphere. However, warm summer events might counteract the positive winter warming effect, which could balance out the fitness gains.
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Keywords: Corbicula fluminea; alien species; fitness; global change; growth; invasive species; mortality; reproduction success; temperature; warming

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of General Ecology and Limnology, Zoological Institute, University of Cologne, D-50931 Cologne, Germany

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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