Marine Invasions Research

Principal Investigator

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. 

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

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).   

Bastida-Zavala J.R., McCann L.D.Keppel E. and Ruiz G.M. 2017. The Fouling serpulids (Polychaeta: Serpulidae) from the coasts of United States coastal waters: an overview. Pp. 76 European Journal of Taxonomy 344 http://dx.doi.org/10.5852/ejt.2017.344 August, 17, 2017

Batista WR, Fernandez FC, Lopes CC, Lopes RSC, Miller W, Ruiz G. 2017. Which ballast water management system will you put aboard? Remnant anxieties: A mini-review. Environments 2017, 4(3), 54; doi:10.3390/environments4030054 August 3, 2017

Jimenez, H, E. Keppel, A.L. Chang, and G.M Ruiz. 2017. Invasions in Marine Communities: Contrasting Species Richness and Community Composition Across Habitats and Salinity. Estuaries and Coasts. DOI 10.1007/s12237-017-0292-4 Online July 25, 2017

Wassick, Ann, Hughes, Melissa, Antonio Baeza, J., Fowler, Amy and Wilber, Dara. 2017. Spacing and movement in the green porcelain crab Petrolisthes armatus: evidence for male competition and mate guarding. Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology, 50 (2) , 165-177.http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10236244.2017.1347020 June 30, 2017

Bible, Jillian M., Cheng, Brian S., Chang, Andrew L., Ferner, Matthew C., Wasson, Kerstin, Zabin, Chela J., Latta, Marilyn, Sanford, Eric, Deck, Anna and Grosholz, Edwin D. 2017. Timing of stressors alters interactive effects on a coastal foundation species.  Ecology, Online June 27, 2017 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ecy.1943


Abstracts

August 17, 2017

Bastida-Zavala J.R., McCann L.D.Keppel E. and Ruiz G.M. 2017. The Fouling serpulids (Polychaeta: Serpulidae) from the coasts of United States coastal waters: an overview. Pp. 76 European Journal of Taxonomy 344 http://dx.doi.org/10.5852/ejt.2017.344 August, 17, 2017

Abstract

Serpulids are an important component of fouling communities. This paper provides an overview of the serpulid species found in North America, as part of a broader study of fouling invertebrates focused on NIS (non-indigenous species) in United States coastal ecosystems. Almost 4400 serpulid specimens were examined from selected fouling plates. Fouling plates were deployed in 26 bays and coastal lagoons along the continental coasts of the United States and Hawaiian islands, primarily in bays and lagoons with salinities averaging 20‰ or greater. Twenty-five serpulid species were identified, including four new records for the United States (Ficopomatus uschakoviHydroidescf. brachyacanthaH. longispinosa and Protula longiseta), three known NIS, two presumed NIS, three cryptogenic serpulids, and several range extensions. Crucigera websteri extends its northward range from Santa Barbara Island to Humboldt Bay, California; Ficopomatus enigmaticus, first recorded in North America from San Francisco, California in 1920, Rockport, Texas in 1952 and Barnegat Bay, New Jersey in 1980, is now recorded at additional localities on the east coast (Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, Charleston, South Carolina and Indian River, Florida) and the northern Gulf of Mexico (Galveston Bay, Texas); F. miamiensis extends its westward range from Louisiana to Texas; F. uschakovi, an Indo-Pacific and Western African species, was recorded formally for the first time from the northern Gulf of Mexico (Galveston Bay and Corpus Christi, Texas) and the east coast of Florida (Jacksonville). Hydroides cf. brachyacantha extends its northward range from Curaҫao to Pensacola Bay, Florida; H. dirampha from Veracruz, Mexico to Corpus Christi, Texas; H. floridana extends its westward range from Louisiana to Texas; H. gracilis extends its northward range from Pacific Grove to San Francisco, California; Salmacina huxleyi from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to Rhode Island; and Spirobranchus minutus from Veracruz, Mexico to Pensacola Bay, Florida. The following additional species range extensions are provisional in that they represent only one record or were not found in the most recent surveys (e.g., Hydroides elegans - east coast): H. longispinosa from Marshall Islands to Oahu, Hawaii; Protula balboensis from Florida to Texas; P. longiseta from the Mexican Caribbean to the Indian River, Florida; H. elegans from San Francisco to Humboldt Bay, northern California and on the east coast from the Indian River, Florida, to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Among surveyed bays, Biscayne Bay, Florida and Corpus Christi, Texas (northern Gulf of Mexico) had the greatest number of species (14 and 8, respectively); in contrast, almost all sites in Alaska, Washington, Oregon (northwest Pacific), Rhode Island, Virginia and South Carolina (Atlantic) had only one or two species each. Hydroides dianthus was, by far, the most abundant serpulid species on fouling plates in the northern Gulf of Mexico and the east coast, while Pseudochitinopoma occidentalis was the most abundant serpulid detected on the west coast. For each species recorded herein, we include the synonyms and some key references, a material studied section, a diagnosis, and updated distributional information. A checklist and identification key to the known shallow-water serpulids sensu stricto of the United States are included.

 

August 3, 2017

Batista WR, Fernandez FC, Lopes CC, Lopes RSC, Miller W, Ruiz G. 2017. Which ballast water management system will you put aboard? Remnant anxieties: A mini-review. Environments 2017, 4(3), 54; doi:10.3390/environments4030054 August 3, 2017

Abstract

An accepted solution to the environmental problems related to a ship’s ballast water has been the adoption and proper utilization of approved onboard ballast water plans and management systems (BWMS). On 8 September 2017, the International Maritime Organization Ballast Water Management Convention comes into force, and under this Convention, ships engaged in international trade must have an approved BWMS aboard to discharge ballast water, reducing species transfer. In response to enormous global concern about this problem, the overwhelming majority of the BWMS, approved currently for use by International Maritime Organization (IMO) and United States Coast Guard, utilize two main technologies (electro-chlorination or ultraviolet irradiation) as their principle mode of disinfection, often used in combination with filtration. However, both technologies have been questioned regarding their practically, efficiency, and possible environmental impacts upon discharge. This review article aims to explore some questions about these two technologies, drawing attention to some current uncertainties associated with their use. Also, it draws attention to some technical obstacles and regulatory impediments related to the new development of green biocide technology, which largely has been ignored, despite its potential as a simpler, cleaner and effective technology.

July 25, 2017

Jimenez, H, E. Keppel, A.L. Chang, and G.M Ruiz. 2017. Invasions in Marine Communities: Contrasting Species Richness and Community Composition Across Habitats and Salinity. Estuaries and Coasts. DOI 10.1007/s12237-017-0292-4 Online July 25, 2017

Abstract

While many studies of non-native species have examined either soft-bottom or hard-bottom marine communities, including artificial structures at docks and marinas, formal comparisons across these habitat types are rare. The number of non-indigenous species (NIS) may differ among habitats, due to differences in species delivery (trade history) and susceptibility to invasions. In this study, we quantitatively compared NIS to native species richness and distribution and examined community similarity across hard-bottom and soft-sediment habitats in San Francisco Bay, California (USA). Benthic invertebrates were sampled using settlement panels (hard-bottom habitats) and sediment grabs (soft-bottom habitats) in 13 paired sites, including eight in higher salinity areas and five in lower salinity areas during 2 years. Mean NIS richness was greatest in hard-bottom habitat at high salinity, being significantly higher than each (a) native species at high salinity and (b) NIS richness at low salinity. In contrast, mean NIS richness in soft-bottom communities was not significantly different from native species richness in either high- or low-salinity waters, nor was there a difference in NIS richness between salinities. For hard-bottom communities, NIS represented an average of 79% of total species richness per sample at high salinity and 78% at low salinity, whereas the comparable values for soft bottom were 46 and 60%, respectively. On average, NIS occurred at a significantly higher frequency (percent of samples) than native species for hard-bottom habitats at both salinities, but this was not the case for soft-bottom habitats. Finally, NIS contributed significantly to the existing community structure (dissimilarity) across habitat types and salinities. Our results show that NIS richness and occurrence frequency is highest in hard-bottom and high-salinity habitat for this Bay but also that NIS contribute strongly to species richness and community structure across each habitat evaluated.

June 30, 2017

Wassick, Ann, Hughes, Melissa, Antonio Baeza, J., Fowler, Amy and Wilber, Dara. 2017. Spacing and movement in the green porcelain crab Petrolisthes armatus: evidence for male competition and mate guarding. Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology, 50 (2) , 165-177.http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10236244.2017.1347020 June 30, 2017

Abstract

The green porcelain crab, Petrolisthes armatus, is a common invasive species on inter-tidal oyster reefs in the South Atlantic Bight whose behavior is largely unknown. We assessed the effects of the presence of opposite-sex conspecifics on adult crab spacing at a low density to infer potential mate acquisition behaviors. Adult crabs held in all-male, all-female, and mixed-sex treatments were observed twice daily over five days to determine nearest-neighbor (NN) distances and relative activity. Males in the mixed-sex treatment with the shortest NN distances (NN1) were most commonly (1) closest to females, and, when compared to NN1 males in the all-male treatment, were (2) closer to their NN and (3) had lower activity levels. Female movement did not differ between treatments. Percent ovigerous females at the end of trials were higher in the mixed-sex treatment, reflecting mating activity, which when observed, involved inter-molt females. Mate guarding, rather than pure-searching behavior, was the mating behavior most consistent with observed spacing and movement patterns.
 

Bible, Jillian M., Cheng, Brian S., Chang, Andrew L., Ferner, Matthew C., Wasson, Kerstin, Zabin, Chela J., Latta, Marilyn, Sanford, Eric, Deck, Anna and Grosholz, Edwin D. 2017. Timing of stressors alters interactive effects on a coastal foundation species.  Ecology, Online June 27, 2017 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ecy.1943

Abstract

The effects of climate-driven stressors on organismal performance and ecosystem functioning have been investigated across many systems; however, manipulative experiments generally apply stressors as constant and simultaneous treatments, rather than accurately reflecting temporal patterns in the natural environment. Here, we assessed the effects of temporal patterns of high aerial temperature and low salinity on survival of Olympia oysters (Ostrea lurida), a foundation species of conservation and restoration concern. As single stressors, low salinity (5 and 10 psu) and the highest air temperature (40°C) resulted in oyster mortality of 55.8, 11.3, and 23.5%, respectively. When applied on the same day, low salinity and high air temperature had synergistic negative effects that increased oyster mortality. This was true even for stressor levels that were relatively mild when applied alone (10 psu and 35°C). However, recovery times of two or four weeks between stressors eliminated the synergistic effects. Given that most natural systems threatened by climate change are subject to multiple stressors that vary in the timing of their occurrence, our results suggest that it is important to examine temporal variation of stressors in order to more accurately understand the possible biological responses to global change.
 
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