For the PNAS study, researchers in 2009 began intensive efforts to eradicate the European green crab from Stinson Beach’s Seadrift Lagoon. The crab is considered among the world’s top 100 invasive species, costing the U.S. commercial shellfish industry about $20 million in annual losses. By 2013, the population had decreased from 125,000 to fewer than 10,000 individuals. But one year later, in 2014, the population exploded to about 300,000 green crab in the lagoon—a 30-fold increase over 2013 levels and nearly triple the pre-eradication population size. The scientists did not observe such population explosions of green crab at any of the four other nearby bays they were monitoring, suggesting the increase was the result of eradication efforts and not atmospheric or oceanographic changes. The study found the population explosion was due in part to the fact that adult decapod crustacea—such as shrimp, lobster and crab—typically cannibalize younger individuals. When most adults were removed, juveniles grew unchecked and overcompensated for the loss of adults.
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