Zoological Studies

Vol. 53, 2014

Rice fields as facilitators of freshwater invasions in protected wetlands: the case of Ostracoda (Crustacea) in the Albufera Natural Park (E Spain)

Luis Valls*, Juan Rueda and Francesc Mesquita-Joanes

Department of Microbiology and Ecology and Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, University of València, Av. Dr. Moliner, 50, E-46100 Burjassot, Spain

Background: Previous studies have identified rice fields in the Mediterranean region as ‘hot spots’ for the introduction of alien freshwater organisms. Consequently, special attention should be paid when rice fields are located inside or near protected areas for the conservation of native, endangered species. To analyse the relationship between rice field environmental traits and the ecology of aquatic invaders, a study of zoobenthic communities was carried out in JulySeptember 2008 and May-August 2009 in ten rice fields located in the Albufera Natural Park (E Spain), with focus on Ostracoda.
A total of nine ostracod species were found including four considered exotic: Candonocypris novaezelandiae, Stenocypris macedonica, Cypris subglobosa and Hemicypris barbadensis. The presence of H. barbadensis is remarkable, which is recorded for the first time in Europe and S. macedonica in the Iberian Peninsula. A checklist of Ostracoda from Albufera Natural Park is presented, including 11 exotic species, mostly unknown from Holocene sedimentary records. The analysis of ostracod assemblages showed a significant relationship between oxygen content and ostracod species associations, suggesting that their abundance are partially controlled by habitat variables in the rice fields. The exotic species C. novaezelandiae was more abundantly collected in samples with reduced oxygen concentrations, in contrast
to other native species whose abundances were lower in such conditions.

Conclusions: Rice fields in Mediterranean areas present a summer inundation period which is unlikely in natural temporary water bodies in the area and which may facilitate invasion by (sub-)tropical species. Lower proportion of exotic to native ostracods is observed in less disturbed areas compared to rice fields with intense human activities. We emphasize the role of anthropogenic effects in the dispersal and colonization processes of exotic ostracods and their particular strong influence in the protected areas closest to rice fields.

Key words: Alien species; Paddy fields; Ostracods; Hemicypris barbadensis; Stenocypris macedonica.

*Correspondence: E-mail: Luis.Valls@uv.es