A global meta-analysis of the ecological impacts of nonnative crayfish

Laura A. Twardochleb, Julian D. Olden, Eric R. Larson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nonnative crayfish have been widely introduced and are a major threat to freshwater biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Despite documentation of the ecological effects of nonnative crayfish from >3 decades of case studies, no comprehensive synthesis has been done to test quantitatively for their general or species-specific effects on recipient ecosystems. We provide the first global meta-analysis of the ecological effects of nonnative crayfish under experimental settings to compare effects among species and across levels of ecological organization. Our meta-analysis revealed strong, but variable, negative ecological impacts of nonnative crayfish with strikingly consistent effects among introduced species. In experimental settings, nonnative crayfish generally affect all levels of freshwater food webs. Nonnative crayfish reduce the abundance of basal resources like aquatic macrophytes, prey on invertebrates like snails and mayflies, and reduce abundances and growth of amphibians and fish, but they do not consistently increase algal biomass. Nonnative crayfish tend to have larger positive effects on growth of algae and larger negative effects on invertebrates and fish than native crayfish, but effect sizes vary considerably. Our study supports the assessment of crayfish as strong interactors in food webs that have significant effects across native taxa via polytrophic, generalist feeding habits. Nonnative crayfish species identity may be less important than extrinsic attributes of the recipient ecosystems in determining effects of nonnative crayfish. We identify some understudied and emerging nonnative crayfish that should be studied further and suggest expanding research to encompass more comparisons of native vs nonnative crayfish and different geographic regions. The consistent and general negative effects of nonnative crayfish warrant efforts to discourage their introduction beyond native ranges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1367-1382
Number of pages16
JournalFreshwater Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Manipulative experiment
  • Orconectes rusticus
  • Orconectes virilis
  • Pacifastacus leniusculus
  • Procambarus clarkii
  • Taxonomic effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Aquatic Science


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