We conducted field surveys and experiments to determine whether observed distributions of crayfish among habitats were influenced by differential resource availability, foraging profitability, and predation rates and whether these factors differed with crayfish size and habitat depth. We sampled available food resources (detritus and invertebrates) and shelter as rock substrate in deep (>50 cm) and shallow (<30 cm) habitats. We used an enclosure-exclosure experiment to examine the effects of water depth and crayfish size on crayfish biomass and survival, and to determine whether these factors affected silt accrual, algal abundance (chlorophyll a [chl a]), and detritus and invertebrate biomass (g ash-free dry mass) differently from enclosures without crayfish. We conducted tethering experiments to assess predation on small (13-17 mm carapace length [CL]) and large (23-30 mm CL) Orconectes marchandi and to determine whether predation rates differed with water depth. Invertebrate biomass was significantly greater in shallow water than in deep water, whereas detritus biomass did not differ significantly between depths. Cobble was significantly more abundant in shallow than in deep water. Depth and crayfish size had a significant interactive effect on change in size of enclosed crayfish when CL was used as a measure of size but not when biomass was used as a measure of size. CL of small crayfish increased significantly more in enclosures in shallow than in deep water, but CL of large crayfish changed very little at either depth. Silt, chl a, and detritus biomass were significantly lower on tiles in large- than in small- and no-crayfish enclosures, and invertebrate biomass was significantly lower in large- than in no-crayfish enclosures. Significantly more crayfish were consumed in deep than in shallow water regardless of crayfish size. Our results suggest that predation and resource availability might influence the depth distribution of small and large crayfish. Small crayfish grew faster in shallow habitats where they might have had a fitness advantage caused by high prey availability and reduced predation risk. Size-dependent reduction of silt by crayfish might influence benthic habitats where large crayfish are abundant. ?? 2007 by The North American Benthological Society.
Additional Publication Details
Effects of depth and crayfish size on predation risk and foraging profitability of a lotic crayfish
Journal of the North American Benthological Society