In a combined study including a 20 year monitoring programme of the benthic communities of four Dutch delta waters and a snapshot survey conducted in the Oosterschelde tidal bay in 2011, the populations of the native portunid European shore crab Carcinus maenas and the introduced varunid crabs Hemigrapsus takanoi and Hemigrapsus sanguineus were investigated. Whereas C. maenas was the most common shore crab in these waters, its numbers have declined on the soft sediment substrates during the last 20 years. As the two exotic crab species were first recorded in the Dutch delta in 1999, they could not have initiated the decline of the native C. maenas. However, within a few years H. takanoi completely dominated the intertidal hard substrate environments; the same environments on which juvenile C. maenas depend. On soft sediment substrate the native and exotic shore crab species are presently more or less equally abundant. H. takanoi might initially have taken advantage of the fact that C. maenas numbers were declining. Additionally H. takanoi are thriving in expanding oyster reefs of Crassostrea gigas (Pacific oyster) in the Dutch delta waters, which provide new habitat. Nowadays H. takanoi appears to be a fierce interference competitor or predator for small C. maenas specimens by expelling them from their shelters. These interactions have led to increased mortality of juvenile C. maenas. At present the C. maenas populations seem to be maintained by crabs that survive and reproduce on available soft sediment habitats where H. takanoi densities are low
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