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. 

Alves, F., Monteiro, J.G., Oliveira, P and Canning-Clode, J.. 2022. Portugal leads with Europe’s largest marine reserve. Nature 601, p318 https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00093-8 (Online January 18, 2022)

Ashton, G.V., Zabin, C.J., Davidson, I.C., and Ruiz, G.M., 2022. Recreational boats routinely transfer organisms and promote marine bioinvasions. Biol Invasions https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-021-02699-x (0123456789().,-volV) ( 01234567 89().,-volV) (Online January 17, 2022)

Castro, N., S. Schäfer, P. Parretti, J.G. Monteiro, F. Gizzi, ..., Canning-Clode, J. 2021 A New Signal of Tropicalization in the Northeast Atlantic: The Spread of the Spotfin Burrfish Chilomycterus reticulatus in Madeira Archipelago and Its Invasion Risk. Diversity 2021, 13, 639. https://doi.org/10.3390/ d13120639 (Online December 3, 2021)

Haram, L.E., Carlton, J.T., Centurioni, L. et al. 2021 Emergence of a neopelagic community through the establishment of coastal species on the high seas. Nat Commun 12, 6885 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-27188-6 (Online December 2, 2021)

Cheng, B.S., Blumenthal, J., Chang, A.L. et al. 2021. Severe introduced predator impacts despite attempted functional eradication. Biol Invasions (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-021-02677-3 (Online November 23, 2021)


Abstracts

January 18, 2022

Alves, F., Monteiro, J.G., Oliveira, P and Canning-Clode, J.. 2022. Portugal leads with Europe’s largest marine reserve. Nature 601, p318 https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00093-8

Marine conservation is central to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals 13 (climate action) and 14 (life below water). Portugal has now created the largest marine reserve with full protection in Europe and the North Atlantic, an achievement that other nations could follow.

The Selvagens Islands Nature Reserve was formally extended in November 2021 from 95 to 2,677 square kilometres to protect remote and pristine coastal, pelagic and deep-sea habitats of species such as the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and the blue shark (Prionace glauca). The reserve is guaranteed the highest international level of protection (go.nature.com/3r5uf2j). This evidence-based initiative was led by the local wildlife-management authority (the Institute of Forests and Nature Conservation), in collaboration with the National Geographic Society in Washington DC, the Oceano Azul Foundation in Lisbon and the Waitt Institute in La Jolla, California.

Marine protected areas mitigate overfishing, climate change and other human-induced pressures (E. Sala et al. Nature 592, 397–402; 2021). They are effective only if highly or fully protected (K. Grorud-Colvert et al. Science 373, eabf0861; 2021).

Portugal is committed to sustainably managing its waters by 2025 (https://oceanpanel.org; see also go.nature.com/3zt2ajn).

Nature 601, 318 (2022)

January 17, 2022

Ashton, G.V., Zabin, C.J., Davidson, I.C., and Ruiz, G.M., 2022. Recreational boats routinely transfer organisms and promote marine bioinvasions. Biol Invasions https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-021-02699-x (0123456789().,-volV) ( 01234567 89().,-volV) (Online January 17, 2022)

Recreational boats and their marinas are important components of the hub-and-spoke model of invasion in coastal marine systems. Like most vectors,however, species transfers by boats are under-sampled and the extent of invasion among coastal bays is patchily sampled, with a bias towards larger urbanized bays with commercial port systems. We assessed both the hubs (bays with marinas) and the spokes (recreational boat movements and their vector biota) that form the basis of a non-shipping hub-and-spoke system for the coast of California. Non-native invertebrates and algae have been reported from most bays in California (26 of 27), with only five of these having commercial shipping ports. Recreational boats offer frequent opportunities for transfers of species among bays; 292,000 recreational boats were registered in coastal California, and more than half (54%) of surveyed recreational boat owners made voyages outside their home bays. Destinations for recreational boaters often included bays without commercial ports and areas of conservation value inside National Marine Sanctuaries. We recorded 158 taxa from the hulls and niche areas of 49 transient recreational boats upon arrival at Californian marinas. These included several non-native species that are already well-established at arrival locations and four that are not known from the state or sampling location. Biofouling abundance on vessels ranged from zero to remarkably high levels (estimated at 106organisms) for vessels that traverse open coastal systems. Management opportunities and models exist for the recreational boat vector but, absent operational incentives, these are challenging to implement broadly. An initial management focus on areas recognized for their distinct marine habitats and biodiversity may be an effective implementation approach.

December 3, 2021

Castro, N., S. Schäfer, P. Parretti, J.G. Monteiro, F. Gizzi, ..., Canning-Clode, J. 2021 A New Signal of Tropicalization in the Northeast Atlantic: The Spread of the Spotfin Burrfish Chilomycterus reticulatus in Madeira Archipelago and Its Invasion Risk. Diversity 2021, 13, 639. https://doi.org/10.3390/ d13120639 (Online December 3, 2021)

Current trends in the global climate facilitate the displacement of numerous marine species from their native distribution ranges to higher latitudes when facing warming conditions. In this work, we analyzed occurrences of a circumtropical reef fish, the spotfin burrfish, Chilomycterus reticulatus (Linnaeus, 1958), in the Madeira Archipelago (NE Atlantic) between 1898 and 2021. In addition to available data sources, we performed an online survey to assess the distribution and presence of this species in the Madeira Archipelago, along with other relevant information, such as size class and year of the first sighting. In total, 28 valid participants responded to the online survey, georeferencing 119 C. reticulatus sightings and confirming its presence in all archipelago islands. The invasiveness of the species was screened using the Aquatic Species Invasiveness Screening Kit. Five assessments rated the fish as being of medium risk of establishing a local population and becoming invasive. Current temperature trends might have facilitated multiple sightings of this thermophilic species in the Madeira Archipelago. The present study indicates an increase in C. reticulatus sightings in the region. This underlines the need for updated comprehensive information on species diversity and distribution to support informed management and decisions. The spread of yet another thermophilic species in Madeiran waters provides further evidence of an ongoing tropicalization, emphasizing the need for monitoring programs and the potential of citizen science in complementing such programs.

December 2, 2021

Haram, L.E., Carlton, J.T., Centurioni, L. et al. 2021 Emergence of a neopelagic community through the establishment of coastal species on the high seas. Nat Commun 12, 6885 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-27188-6

Discoveries of persistent coastal species in the open ocean shift our understanding of biogeographic barriers. Floating plastic debris from pollution now supports a novel sea surface community composed of coastal and oceanic species at sea that might portend significant ecological shifts in the marine environment.

November 23, 2021

Cheng, B.S., Blumenthal, J., Chang, A.L. et al. 2021. Severe introduced predator impacts despite attempted functional eradication. Biol Invasions (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-021-02677-3

Established non-native species can have significant impacts on native biodiversity without any possibility of complete eradication. In such cases, one management approach is functional eradication, the reduction of introduced species density below levels that cause unacceptable effects on the native community. Functional eradication may be particularly effective for species with reduced dispersal ability, which may limit rates of reinvasion from distant populations. Here, we evaluate the potential for functional eradication of introduced predatory oyster drills (Urosalpinx cinerea) using a community science approach in San Francisco Bay. We combined observational surveys, targeted removals, and a caging experiment to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach in mitigating the mortality of prey Olympia oysters (Ostrea lurida), a conservation and restoration priority species. Despite the efforts of over 300 volunteers that removed over 30,000 oyster drills, we report limited success. We also found a strong negative relationship between oyster drills and oysters, showing virtually no coexistence across eight sites. At experimental sites, there was no effect of oyster drill removal on oyster survival in a caging experiment, but strong effects of caging treatment on oyster survival (0 and 1.6% survival in open and partial cage treatments, as compared to 89.1% in predator exclusion treatments). We conclude that functional eradication of this species requires significantly greater effort and may not be a viable management strategy in this system. We discuss several possible mechanisms for this result with relevance to management for this and other introduced species. Oyster restoration efforts should not be undertaken where Urosalpinx is established or is likely to invade.

 

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).