An introduced population of European green crabs Carcinus maenas (Linneaus, 1758) was established in San Francisco Bay prior to 1991. Their subsequent northern range expansion is linked to larval transport in the Davidson Current to northern California (1993), southern Oregon (approximately 1996), the Oregon and Washington coastal estuaries and the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia (1998). Range expansions through larval transport to the central British Columbia coast occurred before 2010, to Haida Gwaii in 2020, and into the inland Salish Sea in 2015 and 2016. Both the range expansions of C. maenas and local abundance are strongly linked to oceanic factors during their larval development. These include (1) strong northward flow of coastal waters during winter; (2) warm surface water temperatures (>10°C for larval development); and (3) coastal circulation patterns that keep larvae close to shore, where they can be carried by wind and tidal currents into estuaries and embayments to settle. The strongest year classes and largest range expansions occurred during the last two major El Niño events. The 1997 to 1998 El Niño resulted in the colonization of embayments in Oregon, coastal Washington, and on the west coast of Vancouver Island, while the El Niño of 2015 to 2016 and the Pacific Warm Blob are linked to the range expansion into the Salish Sea. More local range expansions along the west coast of Vancouver Island, to the central British Columbia Coast, to Haida Gwaii, and inside the Salish Sea occurred during non-El Niño years.
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Vol. 40 • No. 2