Condition-specific competition allows coexistence of competitively superior exotic oysters with native oysters

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Krassoi, FR, Brown, KR, Bishop, MJ, Kelaher, BP & Summerhayes, S 2008, 'Condition-specific competition allows coexistence of competitively superior exotic oysters with native oysters', Journal of Animal Ecology, vol. 77, no. 1, pp. 5-15.

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1 Trade-offs between competitive ability and tolerance of abiotic stress are widespread in the literature. Thus, condition-specific competition may explain spatial variability in the success of some biological invaders and why, in environments where there is small-scale environmental variability, competitively inferior and superior species can coexist.

2 We tested the hypothesis that differences in abiotic stress alter the outcome of competitive interactions between the native Sydney rock oysters Saccostrea glomerata and exotic Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas by experimentally testing patterns of intra- and interspecific competition across a tidal elevation gradient of abiotic stress at three sites on the east coast of Australia.

3 At low and mid-intertidal heights, exotic C. gigas were able to rapidly overgrow and smother native S. glomerata, which grew at c. 60% of the exotic's rate. In high intertidal areas, where C. gigas displayed about 80% mortality but similar growth rates to S. glomerata, the native oyster was not affected by the presence of the exotic species.

4 Asymmetrical effects of the exotic species on the native could not be replicated by manipulating densities of conspecifics, confirming that effects at low and mid-intertidal heights were due to interspecific competition.

5 Our results suggest that the more rapid growth of C. gigas than S. glomerata comes at the cost of higher mortality under conditions of abiotic stress. Thus, although C. gigas may rapidly overgrow S. glomerata at low and mid tidal heights, the native oyster will not be competitively excluded by the exotic due to release from competition at high intertidal elevations.

6 The success of trade-offs in explaining spatial variation in the outcome of competitive interactions between C. gigas and S. glomerata strengthen the claim that these may be a useful tool in the quest to produce general predictive models of invasion success.

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