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The impact of signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) on the topography and fabric of six narrowly graded, gravel substrates was investigated using repeat laser scanning of sediment surfaces in still-water aquaria. Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) of the gravel surfaces were obtained before and after exposure to crayfish for five predetermined periods. The impact on the substrate was quantified by establishing topographic and volumetric changes using DEMs of difference (DoD). The presence of an individual, medium sized crayfish for 24 h resulted in an average volume change in surface topography of 450 cm3 over an area of 2400 cm2, giving a sediment displacement of 1.7 kg m−2 d− 1. The majority (78%) of this volume change was associated with small scale (≤ 1 median grain diameter) movements of surface grains. This fabric adjustment altered grain orientations and friction angles. Crayfish also constructed pits and mounds that increased significantly the roughness of the gravel substrates and altered the protrusion of individual grains. Crayfish were able to move material up to 38 mm in diameter that had a submerged weight six times that of the individuals used in this study. By modifying the arrangement of grains on the surface of fluvial substrates, signal crayfish may counteract the low flow physical consolidation of gravel beds and reduce the entrainment stresses required to move river bed material. The results of this study suggest that signal crayfish, an internationally widespread invasive species, may have substantial impacts on the physical environment of streams and rivers, as well as on local benthic ecological communities.
Journal: Geomorphology - Volume 123, Issues 3–4, 15 November 2010, Pages 269–278