The effects of the invasive Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis, on native UK biota

Theme: Biodiversity, Ecology & Conservation

Primary Supervisor:

Paul Clark

Life Sciences Department, NHM

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Secondary Supervisor:

David Morritt

School of Biological Sciences, RHUL

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Project Description:

Although the Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis, has invaded many catchments in England and Wales (, our understanding of their impact on native biota and ecosystems in the UK is extremely limited.

This project will address these issues, in part, building on preliminary studies undertaken by RHUL and NHM. Specifically the project will:

1) test the hypothesis that E. sinensis exhibits different feeding preferences at different times in its life cycle, e.g. between the sub-adult, feshwater phase and adult, euryhaline, migratory phase,

2) further develop molecular techniques to identify crab gut contents (typically almost impossible to do morphologically), initially using controlled trials in the aquarium / laboratory and then rolled out to field populations,

3) test the hypothesis that mitten crabs have adverse effects on sediment stability and diversity of native species using experimental manipulation in the field and / or laboratory mesocosm experiments.

Policy Impact of Research:

Demonstration of actual effects of E. sinensis on native biota and ecosystems.

Data will be used to inform management decisions, including discussions on targeted, local fisheries (Thames currently being considered) to actively reduce crab numbers and thus potential impact on biodiversity.

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