Marine Invasions Research

Principal Investigator

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Biological invasions - the establishment of species beyond their historical range - are a major force of ecological and evolutionary change. Our lab aims to understand the patterns, processes, and consequences of invasions in marine ecosystems on local to global scales.  We have laboratories and staff on both coasts of North America, on Chesapeake Bay and San Francisco Bay (Tiburon Lab).  These bays are focal points for our long-term, intensive research, which spans Pacific and Atlantic shorelines of the Americas --- from polar to tropical latitudes. 

Most marine invasions result from human-mediated species transfers, which are often associated with commercial and recreational vessels. A major component of our research examines shipping, transportation, and trade dynamics for the United States with the National Ballast Information Clearinghouse (NBIC), a joint program with the U.S. Coast Guard that is based at SERC.  NBIC tracks the status and trends of ballast water delivery and management for the Nation.

Our research encompasses a wide range of projects, exploring the ecology and management of coastal marine ecosystems.  We focus primarily on invasion dynamics but also examine species interactions of both native and non-native species. Overall, we seek to: (1) characterize patterns of marine invasion across space, time, and taxonomic groups; (2) develop a mechanistic understanding of the processes that drive observed patterns; (3) advance predictive capability about the establishment, spread, and impacts of non-native species in marine ecosystems; (4) evaluate the efficacy of management strategies to limit the establishment and impact of invaders; and (5) understand the roles of species interactions, including predator-prey and host-parasite relationships, in marine communities. 

Further details on the various dimensions of our work are available below. 

Drake, LA, Bailey, SA., Brydges, T., Carney, K.J,  Ruiz, G.M.,  Bayly-Stark, J., Drillet, G.,  Everett, R.A. 2021. Design and installation of ballast water sample ports: Current status and implications for assessing compliance with discharge standards. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 167: 112280. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2021.112280 (online March 31, 2021)

Grosholz ED, Ashton G, Bradley M, Ceballos L, Chang AL, deRivera C, Gonzalez J, Heineke M, Maraffini M, McCann L, Pollard E, Pritchard I, Ruiz G, Tepolt C. 2021. Dramatic Population Irruption Defeats Eradication of an Invasive Marine Predator. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2003955118 (Online March 23, 2021)

Grosholz E., Ashton G, Bradley M, Brown C, Ceballos-Osuna L, Chang A, de Rivera C, Gonzalez J, Heineke M, Marraffini M, McCann L, Pollard E, Pritchard I, Ruiz G, Turner B, and Tepolt C. 2021. Stage-specific overcompensation, the hydra effect, and the failure to eradicate an invasive predator. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Mar 2021, 118 (12) e2003955118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2003955118 (online March 17, 2021)

Grosholz E, Drill S, McCann L, Bimrose K. 2021. Engaging the importance of community scientists in the management of an invasive marine pest. Calif Agr 75(1):40-45. https://doi.org/10.3733/ca.2021a0006. (Online March 10, 2021)

Tagliapietra D, Guarneri I, Keppel E, Sigovini M, 2021. After a century in the Mediterranean, the warm-water shipworm Teredo bartschi invades the Lagoon of Venice (Italy), overwintering a few degrees above zero. Biological Invasions 23(2): 1–24. (Online February 9, 2021)


Abstracts

March 31, 2021

Drake, LA, Bailey, SA., Brydges, T., Carney, K.J,  Ruiz, G.M.,  Bayly-Stark, J., Drillet, G.,  Everett, R.A. 2021. Design and installation of ballast water sample ports: Current status and implications for assessing compliance with discharge standards. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 167: 112280. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2021.112280 

To verify ships' compliance with ballast water regulations, samples may be collected and tested for viable organisms. This task is completed using a sample probe, which is placed in the ballast discharge pipe through a sample port (a flanged opening). To collect representative samples, the placement of the sample port and the size of the sample probe must be appropriate for the shipboard piping arrangement and ballast water flows. The placement of sample ports was evaluated on 72 ships to assess the current condition of ballast water sampling installations against available guidance. Few ships (15%) had sample ports fully aligned with International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard 11711-1. While current configurations may present challenges in collecting representative samples, these installations likely occurred before the ISO standard was available. Future installations should be in accordance with the standard to facilitate representative sampling.

March 23, 2021

Grosholz ED, Ashton G, Bradley M, Ceballos L, Chang AL, deRivera C, Gonzalez J, Heineke M, Maraffini M, McCann L, Pollard E, Pritchard I, Ruiz G, Tepolt C. 2021. Dramatic Population Irruption Defeats Eradication of an Invasive Marine Predator. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2003955118

As biological invasions continue to increase globally, eradication programs have been undertaken at significant cost, often without consideration of relevant ecological theory. Theoretical fisheries models have shown that harvest can actually increase the equilibrium size of a population, and uncontrolled studies and anecdotal reports have documented population increases in response to invasive species removal (akin to fisheries harvest). Both findings may be driven by high levels of juvenile survival associated with low adult abundance, often referred to as overcompensation. Here we show that in a coastal marine ecosystem, an eradication program resulted in stage-specific overcompensation and a 30-fold, single-year increase in the population of an introduced predator. Data collected concurrently from four adjacent regional bays without eradication efforts showed no similar population increase, indicating a local and not a regional increase. Specifically, the eradication program had inadvertently reduced the control of recruitment by adults via cannibalism, thereby facilitating the population explosion. Mesocosm experiments confirmed that adult cannibalism of recruits was size-dependent and could control recruitment. Genomic data show substantial isolation of this population and implicate internal population dynamics for the increase, rather than recruitment from other locations. More broadly, this controlled experimental demonstration of stage-specific overcompensation in an aquatic system provides an important cautionary message for eradication efforts of species with limited connectivity and similar life histories.

March 17, 2021

Grosholz E., Ashton G, Bradley M, Brown C, Ceballos-Osuna L, Chang A, de Rivera C, Gonzalez J, Heineke M, Marraffini M, McCann L, Pollard E, Pritchard I, Ruiz G, Turner B, and Tepolt C. 2021. Stage-specific overcompensation, the hydra effect, and the failure to eradicate an invasive predator. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Mar 2021, 118 (12) e2003955118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2003955118 

As biological invasions continue to increase globally, eradication programs have been undertaken at significant cost, often without consideration of relevant ecological theory. Theoretical fisheries models have shown that harvest can actually increase the equilibrium size of a population, and uncontrolled studies and anecdotal reports have documented population increases in response to invasive species removal (akin to fisheries harvest). Both findings may be driven by high levels of juvenile survival associated with low adult abundance, often referred to as overcompensation. Here we show that in a coastal marine ecosystem, an eradication program resulted in stage-specific overcompensation and a 30-fold, single-year increase in the population of an introduced predator. Data collected concurrently from four adjacent regional bays without eradication efforts showed no similar population increase, indicating a local and not a regional increase. Specifically, the eradication program had inadvertently reduced the control of recruitment by adults via cannibalism, thereby facilitating the population explosion. Mesocosm experiments confirmed that adult cannibalism of recruits was size-dependent and could control recruitment. Genomic data show substantial isolation of this population and implicate internal population dynamics for the increase, rather than recruitment from other locations. More broadly, this controlled experimental demonstration of stage-specific overcompensation in an aquatic system provides an important cautionary message for eradication efforts of species with limited connectivity and similar life histories.

March 10, 2021

Grosholz E, Drill S, McCann L, Bimrose K. 2021. Engaging the importance of community scientists in the management of an invasive marine pest. Calif Agr 75(1):40-45. https://doi.org/10.3733/ca.2021a0006.

The introduction of nonnative invasive pests is among the many threats facing coastal ecosystems worldwide. Managing these pests often requires considerable effort and resources, and community scientists can be essential for providing the capacity needed for management and monitoring activities. In response to the invasion of a Northern California estuary by the predatory European green crab, a collaborative team of academic researchers and community scientists initiated a local eradication program. The green crab is listed among the world's 100 worst invaders, and threatened both native species and commercial shellfisheries. The program dramatically reduced the green crab population over a 5-year period, but it rebounded, which necessitated a switch in project goals from eradication to population suppression. Community scientists were essential for facilitating this switch by providing the necessary capacity to quantify population characteristics and maintain reduced crab populations. The result was a sustainable program that successfully maintained low green crab densities, which will likely improve habitat for native species.

February 9, 2021

Tagliapietra D, Guarneri I, Keppel E, Sigovini M, 2021. After a century in the Mediterranean, the warm-water shipworm Teredo bartschi invades the Lagoon of Venice (Italy), overwintering a few degrees above zero. Biological Invasions 23(2): 1–24.

During almost a century of permanence in the Mediterranean, the warm water species Teredo bartschi has adapted to progressively colder climates up to overwintering at water temperatures only a few degrees above zero. A fine-grained analysis of discoveries, synonyms, museum collections and grey literature establishes that this species entered the Mediterranean since at least 1935. Coming from tropical waters through the Suez Canal, the species has undergone to a long period of acclimatization in the Levantine Basin of the Mediterranean and then pushed north at the beginning of this century until it has invaded the Lagoon of Venice. The invasion routes are reconstructed and presented. The lagoon of Venice is a microtidal bar-built estuary located in the northernmost part of the Mediterranean and represents the highest latitude reached by the species on a global scale. Here for over ten years, T. bartschi has now become invasive forming stable and abundant populations. This paper presents some biometrics of hard parts such as pallets and shells as well as the description of siphons, useful for the identification and characterization of the species. The shape of the pallets of the Venetian population differs from the Aqaba’s (Giordania) and Mersin’s (Turkey) populations. Phenotypic variation are probably due to environmental effects on morphology.

 

Species distributions are at the core of all ecological and evolutionary processes. Despite recognition that accelerating invasions are radically changing fundamental ecological processes, we currently lack the data for a broad scale understanding of these  patterns, emergent properties, and practical implications across both spatial and temporal scales. We are collecting quality occurrence data and using these data to understand patterns and mechanisms of invasion, and making these data publicly available for broader application by the public.

Our Projects

The impacts of introduced species pose significant challenges for conservation and restoration because they undermine a desired outcome for target species or habitats. In addition, some invasions impose significant economic costs through loss of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries products, and others, including mosquito-borne viruses and toxic algal blooms, have severe human health effects. Detailed analysis of several high-profile species invasions have highlighted the types and potential magnitude of invasion impacts that exist, however, the effect of most non-native species and the full scope of impacts from invasions remains poorly understood. To address this gap, we use a variety of approaches to characterize and test the ecological, evolutionary, and social effects of non-native species across diverse ecosystems.  This work advances understanding of how the Earth’s ecosystems function and also serve to inform resource management and conservation strategies.

Our Projects

Biological invasions provide opportunities to examine how species and ecosystems respond to new arrivals, and how species adapt to new environmental conditions. These types of “natural experiments” provide new insights into many biological processes, especially early in the colonization process, that are not possible with native communities.  We examine invasion ecology at the population, community, and ecosystem level across a diverse range of habitats and organisms, both to advance basic science and inform management and conservation strategies.

Our Projects

Managing biological invasions is a worldwide endeavor that aims to (a) prevent the human-caused spread of species, (b) control and remove unwanted species, and (c) reduce negative impacts to society and the environment. We are evaluating the efficacy and consequences of invasion management strategies and policies in coastal estuaries and marine systems.  Our work is often done in collaboration with local, state, federal and international partners and used actively to inform current management and policy decisions.

Our Projects

We study the dynamic interactions between society, trade, transport, and species in a variety of ways. These include modeling transport networks and biotic exchange, evaluating business model forecasts and their effects on trade routes and species distributions, and assessments of organism transfers across major corridors between oceans and continents.

Our Projects

Understanding how modes of human transportation affect the environment, and biological invasions in particular, is complicated and involves many components including both human and natural history. Human history because most invasions result from human-aided species transfers and invasion patterns often reflect human movements and transportation systems. Natural history because species identifications and their life history characteristics are paramount to knowing which species are non-native and how they have likely been introduced. We work to address these complexities and strive to understand the dynamics of species transport in marine systems. 

Our Projects

Balanced predation and competition are key to the health of any ecosystem. We are examining predation and competition rates in several environments including in the Rhode River near SERC where we study native species in nearshore environments and in introduced fouling communities on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.  

Our Projects

Communities are constantly being shaped by human activities, activates that can affect hydrology, climate, chemical inputs, species richness (number of species that make up the community), as well as habitat quantity and quality. Our research focuses on how biological invasions change the marine and estuarine communities they invade and how recipient communities protect themselves from invasion. The following highlights a few of our recent projects exploring community changes resulting from nonnative species introductions.

Our Projects

Propagule Pressure in Marine Habitats

We are examining the complex, dynamic interactions between parasites and their hosts, including both the evolutionary and ecological mechanisms that influence these interactions. Our research includes a wide variety of hosts (e.g., seagrasses, bivalves, crustaceans) and parasites (e.g., protists, bacteria, crustaceans).