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Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Report

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We measured the strength of direct and indirect interactions in order to develop a standardized estimate of the impact of an invasive snail on its resource and a competitor. The freshwater New Zealand snail, Potamopyrgus antipodarum, an invasive species in the western U.S., is the most abundant benthic macroinvertebrate grazer in several rivers, where it overlaps with several threatened endemic snails. In one watershed, Potamopyrgus coexists with the snail, Pyrgulopsis robusta, which may be affected by resource competition with Potamopyrgus. In field enclosure experiments, we quantified the direct grazing effect of snails on algae and the indirect effects between consumers. Potamopyrgus significantly limited growth of Pyrgulopsis. In contrast, Pyrgulopsis appeared to facilitate growth of the invasive snail (Potamopyrgus). In natural populations, snail densities were positively correlated over five sites, but negatively correlated at two downstream sites. Interaction strengths between snails and algae were equivalent for both snails at both sites, indicating that invasion success could not be attributed to differences in resource acquisition. However, the overall impact of the invader was much higher at the downstream site when both snail abundance and interaction strengths were considered. Negative individual effects of Potamopyrgus at two trophic levels in conjunction with high Potamopyrgus abundance demonstrated a significant impact of the invader in this lotic community.