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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Martyn Lucas

Bubb, D. H., Thom, T. J. & Lucas, M. C. (2008). Spatial ecology of the white-clawed crayfish in an upland stream and implications for the conservation of this endangered species. Aquatic Conservation - Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 18(5): 647 - 657.

Author(s) from Durham


1. Populations of white-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) have undergone substantial declines across Europe. Remaining populations tend to be fragmented and in many catchments they are restricted to upland streams. Information is needed concerning their spatial ecology to assist with conservation and rehabilitation of existing fragmented populations, as well as possible reintroductions.
2. A novel method for the long-term tagging of white-clawed crayfish was used to study the spatial ecology of a white-clawed crayfish population fragment in a small, moderate-gradient upland stream. Internal passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags enabled adult crayfish (carapace length >27 mm) to be permanently tagged, each with a unique identification code and resulted in a high number of recaptures. Of 501 crayfish tagged 413 were subsequently relocated at least once.
3. Crayfish did not make extensive movements, the median annual distance moved was 84.8 m yr-1, equivalent to annual net movement of 0.233 m day-1, substantially less than reported in previous studies. The lower levels of movement may reflect the study encompassing all seasons, including winter, when crayfish are relatively inactive.
4. Significantly more crayfish moved downstream compared with upstream and distances moved downstream were significantly greater than those in an upstream direction. This may be linked to the relatively high gradient of the stream and a reduced passability of the abundant riffles to upstream movements of crayfish.
5. A small weir acted as a barrier within the stream, preventing upstream movements of crayfish. Even small barriers may limit the movements of white-clawed crayfish and have the potential to limit connectivity within populations and prevent expansion or recolonization.
6. The results presented suggest that fragmented populations of white-clawed crayfish in upland streams are unlikely to expand rapidly and reconnect to other population fragments, even where habitat is suitable. In establishing stream populations care should be taken to ensure that even small barriers to movement are removed unless these are intended to exclude non-native biota, especially crayfish.