- Ecology and conservation status of endemic freshwater crabs in Lake Tanganyika, Africa
- Biodiversity and Conservation
- Volume | Issue number
- 18 | 6
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Sedimentation resulting from riparian deforestation has a wide range of detrimental effects on aquatic biodiversity, but predicting the full consequences of such disturbances requires an understanding of the ecosystem’s key functional components. We investigated the ecology and response to sedimentation of the diverse, endemic freshwater crabs of Lake Tanganyika, which may occupy important positions in littoral foodwebs. Our surveys revealed crab distribution patterns to be patchy, and that crabs can be locally abundant (0-28 individuals m−2). Crab densities decreased with depth and the dry mass of crab assemblages ranged from 0.0 to 117.7 g m−2. Comparisons among sites revealed significant effects of sedimentation on crab assemblage evenness, but provided no evidence that sedimentation has altered densities, incidence or species richness. The resilience of crabs to sedimentation might be related to their intraspecific dietary breadth. Stable isotope data (δ13C and δ15N) from crabs and their potential food resources indicated differences in trophic roles among endemic crab species. Overall, crabs occupy higher trophic positions than most other invertebrates, and they draw upon both benthic and planktonic energy pathways. The high biomass and top-predator status of some crab species suggests the potential for cascading effects on organisms lower in the food web.
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