Great Basin Naturalist


The recent appearance of the "California crayfish," Pacifastacus leniusculus, in Castle Lake, California, and interest in its potential impacts on the lake ecosystem provided motivation for a study of the population structure and habitat use of this species and its effects on aquatic macrophytes. Mark-recapture studies indicated that the total number of adult (3+ yr or older) crayfish in the lake was ca 10,100 individuals, yielding an estimate of lakewide crayfish density in preferred crayfish habitats of 0.13 adults m−2. Using mean body mass of individuals, we estimated that ambient biomass density was 5.9 g m−2. Length-weight relationships determined for captured individuals were sex dependent, with males having greater body mass for a given carapace length. Length-frequency and weight-frequency diagrams indicated that P. leniusculus reaches larger sizes in Castle Lake than do populations of P. leniusculus in ultraoligotrophic Lake Tahoe. Population-wide, males were significantly larger in both carapace length and body mass than females. We also examined sex dependence of interhabitat differences in crayfish body size by comparing animals trapped in rocky areas with those from areas with macrophytes and soft sediments. No significant differences in overall body size were found between habitats, but a significant habitat-sex interaction term occurred because the sex-dependent size differences were more pronounced in sediment than in rocky areas. Exclosure and enclosure experiments indicated that crayfish had large but differential impacts on Castle Lake macrophyte species, as the abundance of two of the dominant species (Chara sp., Potamogeton richardsonii) declined in the presence of crayfish and, in one case, increased in exclosures. These effects occurred via both consumptive and nonconsumptive mechanisms. These studies indicate that an expanding population of P. leniusculus in Castle Lake may be producing sizable impacts on the littoral zone habitat.