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New alien species threatens Malta’s freshwater ecosystems

The crayfish is a threat to local species found in the freshwater environment.

The crayfish is a threat to local species found in the freshwater environment.

An invasive alien freshwater species, the red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkia) has been found in Chadwick Lakes by members of the University of Malta’s Conservation Biology Research Group.

The species, which has been carelessly introduced in the lake by someone, may negatively affect the biodiversity of local natural freshwater species whose habitat is already vulnerable due to pollution and climate change impacts.

The research group observed the crayfish opportunistically feeding on tadpoles and other species found in the freshwater environment. Its scientific investigation has been published in the international peer-reviewed journal NESciences (See link below).

There clearly needs to be more care in the importation and sale of exotic species as most local habitats are already suffering from various man-made problems

The finding has been shared with the local environment protection authority in order to recommend action to remove the new environmental threat in this very fragile local freshwater ecosystem. Adriana Vella, who leads the group, said there clearly needs to be more care in the importation and sale of exotic species as most local habitats are already suffering from various man-made problems.

The research group is active in the study of biodiversity in different habitats and has discovered various non-native species in the marine environment. Among these were the discoveries of the Cocoa Damselfish, Dory Snapper, Indo-Pacific Sergeant, Sergeant Major, African Sergeant, Lowfin Chub, Niger Hind, Monrovia Surgeonfish, Indo-Pacific Punctuated Flatworm, Lionfish and Squirrelfish.

As these exotic or alien species increasingly threaten local species in land, freshwater and marine environments, people wishing to assist the ongoing conservation research of endemic, vulnerable or endangered species are invited to take photos, collect samples or report sightings of any non-native species and forward them to this research group so it may continue with its work to promote effective conservation of species and habitats needing urgent care.

The group already receives reports and sightings it receives reports from various stakeholders, including fishermen, scuba divers, farmers, nature enthusiasts and Bicref NGO members. These complement the group’s own dedicated research efforts in the field and research labs.

To contact the group, call Dr Vella on 9942 9592 or e-mail  [email protected].

www.nesciences.com/abstract_info.php?page=info&paperid=197

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