Catherine E. de Rivera

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Environmental Sciences and Resources


Environmental Sciences and Resources

Physical Description

1 online resource (xii, 173 pages)




Lethal biotic interactions strongly influence the potential for aquatic non-native species to establish and endure in habitats to which they are introduced. Predators in the recipient area, including native and previously established non-native predators, can prevent establishment, limit habitat use, and reduce abundance of non-native species. Management efforts by humans using methods designed to cause mass mortality (e.g., trapping, biocide applications) can reduce or eradicate non-native populations. However, the impacts of predator and human induced mortality may be mitigated by the behavior or population-level responses of a given non-native species.

My dissertation examined the responses of non-native aquatic species to the risk of predation by novel (i.e., no previous exposure) predators in the recipient community and indicators of potential compensatory responses by non-native populations to increased mortality resulting from removal efforts. My dissertation addresses four primary questions. 1) Can first generation, naïve invaders recognize and defend against predators found within the region of invasion through the expression of inducible defenses? 2) Can the overcompensatory potential of a population be predicted though examinations of intraspecific interactions of individuals from the population? 3) What is the relationship between removal effort outcome (i.e., successful or unsuccessful reduction of the target population) and compensatory population responses? 4) Is there a relationship between characteristics of removal efforts that are typically available to managers (e.g., target area size, target area connectivity, removal methodology) and compensatory population responses that could indicate the relative likelihood of compensation resulting from removal efforts?

An invading species should be more likely to establish if it can successfully identify and defend against predators in the recipient range, such as through the expression of inducible defenses. Inducible defenses are behavioral or physiological changes that reduce an organism's susceptibility to predation. Through a series of laboratory experiments, I tested whether inducible defenses, in the form of increased burrowing depth, may have benefited the early stage of invasion of Nuttallia obscurata (purple varnish clam), an established Northeast Pacific invader. Specimens of N. obscurata were collected from introduced populations in the Northeast Pacific and from a native population in Japan. The clams were exposed to chemical and physical cues from Northeast Pacific crab predators, including the native Metacarcinus magister (Dungeness crab), an abundant and frequent predator of N. obscurata. While introduced N. obscurata increased their burrowing depth in the physical presence of M. magister, clams collected from their native range showed no such response. This lack of increased burrowing depth by naïve clams in response to a predator native to the newly invaded range, but a significant increase in depth for clams from populations established in the range suggests that while inducible defenses likely did not contribute to the initial establishment of N. obscurata in the Northeast Pacific, they may contribute to their continued persistence and expansion in their introduced range.

Some efforts to reduce invasive populations have paradoxically led to population increases. This phenomenon, referred to as overcompensation, occurs when strong negative density-dependent interactions are reduced through increased mortality within a population, resulting in an increase in the population's recruitment rate sufficient to increase the population's overall abundance. Increases in a population's recruitment rate can result from reduced cannibalism of juveniles resulting in lower mortality of new recruits, from increased adult reproductive output, which increases the number of potential recruits, or from reductions in size and/or age at maturity of the unharvested population, which increases the number of reproductive individuals. I predicted the overcompensatory potential of a population of Carcinus maenas (European green crab) in Bodega Harbor, California, using a series of laboratory and field experiments examining intraspecific pressures of adults on juveniles in the population. This measure of intraspecific pressure was used to predict the overcompensatory potential of the population in response to increased mortality from ongoing removal efforts. This prediction was then assessed using pre- and post-removal surveys of juvenile recruitment in Bodega Harbor compared to nearby populations, testing for evidence of overcompensation. While adult C. maenas in Bodega Harbor had limited negative impacts on juveniles, I concluded it was unlikely to result in overcompensation. Relative juvenile abundance did not statistically increase in removal compared to reference populations, consistent with my conclusion from the experiments.

Increases in recruitment rates can occur as a result of efforts to remove non-native species. This increase in recruitment can result in overcompensation, but more commonly results in compensation, where recruitment rates increase relative to pre-removal recruitment but does not result in in the population's abundance exceeding pre-removal levels. However, a detailed and accurate prediction of the response of a population to harvest is time consuming and data intensive. This is not feasible for most efforts to eradicate non-native species, which have the greatest chance of success when enacted rapidly after detection. For my final chapter, I performed a literature review and accompanying statistical analysis to determine if typically available information related to the removal effort (site size, site connectivity, and removal technique) could be used to determine increased risk of compensation for a given effort to remove aquatic invasive species. Compensation was closely linked to unsuccessful removal efforts and was observed only among efforts utilizing physical removal methods. However, the frequency with which compensation occurred varied with the exact technique employed, occurring most frequently in removal utilizing electrofishing. Additionally, evidence of compensation was more frequent among larger removal areas with variable connectivity. While other predictors (temperature, effort, etc) might add to the predicative power, the findings of the review provide criteria for managers to determine the relative risk of compensation prior to the start of removal.

Further understanding of how invasive species respond to lethal biotic interactions, including anthropogenically mediated control measures, can aid in assessing the risk of invasion for a given species and inform managers of the risk of complications resulting from removal efforts. While inducible defenses may contribute to the long-term success of an introduced species in their recipient range, my findings did not support the idea that inducible defenses triggered by predator cues contributed to their initial introduction in this case. However, research on other non-native species and offspring of previously naïve prey would allow for a clearer picture of the role of inducible defenses in the invasion process. Compensation resulting from removal efforts does not guarantee failure, and certain characteristics of removal efforts seem to indicate increased risk of compensation. Together these components help identify how biotic interactions surrounding mortality risk of an invading species help shape the trajectory of invasion.

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