Context-dependent impacts of a non-native ecosystem engineer, the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas

Integr Comp Biol. 2010 Aug;50(2):213-25. doi: 10.1093/icb/icq080. Epub 2010 Jul 3.


The introduction of non-native species represents unprecedented large-scale experiments that allow us to examine ecological systems in ways that would otherwise not be possible. Invasion by novel ecological types into a community can press a system beyond the bounds normally seen and can reveal community interactions, local drivers and limits within systems that are otherwise hidden by coevolution and a long evolutionary history among local players, as well as local adaptation of species. The success of many invaders is attributed to their ability to thrive in a wide range of habitat types and physical conditions, setting the stage for direct examination of ecological impacts of a species across a range of habitat and community contexts. Bivalves are well-known ecosystem engineers, especially oysters, which are the target of wild-caught fisheries and aquaculture. The Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas, is grown worldwide for aquaculture, and is presently invading shores on virtually every continent. As a consequence, this non-native species is having large impacts on many systems, but the types of impacts are system specific, and greatly depend on substrate type, how physiologically stressful the environment is for intertidal zone species, and the presence of native engineering species. A novel type of engineering effect is identified for this non-native species, whereby it alters not only the physical environment, but also the thermal environment of the community it invades. The impacts of engineering by this non-native species will depend not only on whether it facilitates or inhibits species but also on the trophic level and ecological role of the species affected, and whether similar ecological types are found within the system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Animals
  • Bioengineering*
  • Crassostrea / physiology*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environment
  • Temperature