The structure and composition of benthic communities on hard substrates covered by the nonindigenous bivalve Limnoperna fortunei Dunker, the golden mussel, were quantified in the middle zone of the Río de la Plata Estuary (Argentina) from April 2001 through March 2002. A total of 26 taxa were recorded. L. fortunei and Nematoda were the central and dominant groups, with a prodigious abundance of over 80%. The prevalence of L. fortunei, rather than the environmental variables, regulated the dynamics of the associated invertebrate fauna. The golden mussel alters both the structure and function of benthic native communities on hard substrates, allows a higher surface available for colonization and refuge, and provides food source to deposit-feeding organisms in the form of organic or residual material. The mussel also increases the abundance and diversity of taxa on hard substrata - such as Oligochaeta, Hirudinea, Tardigrada, Chironomidae, Copepoda, Tanaidacea, and Hydrachnidia. Similarities and nonparametric multidimensional-scaling analyses indicated that the benthic composition had a seasonal variation. L. fortunei has an environmental impact, an ability to invade new freshwater ambiences worldwide and ecological characteristic comparable to those of Dreissena polymorpha Pallas (the zebra mussel) of North America and Europe.
alien species, biodiversity, Neotropical Region, structure and composition, temporal variation.