Alien species are rapidly changing our marine and freshwater ecosystems. The number of invasions to U.S. waters has grown dramatically in recent decades, causing serious ecological and economic impacts. Effective management strategies aimed at reducing new invasions and their impacts require a concerted effort of multiple disciplines working across a network of sites. To further this goal, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) and Portland State University (PSU) are joining forces to advance such an approach to understanding and managing aquatic invasions.
The new "Aquatic BioInvasion Research and Policy Institute" was officially established on Tuesday, Oct. 26 during a signing ceremony in Portland, OR. The Institute combines the respective strengths of SERC and PSU in marine and freshwater systems. By blending a wide range of disciplines (such as biology, environmental sciences, economics, engineering and social sciences), this endeavor seeks to develop novel approaches to research, management and policy for biological invasions.
The Institute is advancing an ambitious array of activities from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts, to build broad-based understanding and solutions to aquatic invasions. SERC's Chesapeake Bay laboratories will be the base for Atlantic coast research while Portland State University will serve as the home base for the Aquatic BioInvasion Research and Policy Institute. From these two centers, the Institute plans to establish a broad consortium of researchers, resource managers, industry representatives and students from many additional organizations that participate in this program.
The initiative has received support from congressmen David Wu (D-OR.) who said recently, "As a member of the House of Representatives Science Committee, I understand the potentially devastating effects of invasive species within freshwater and marine systems, and the need for extensive research on this subject. I strongly support the partnership between Portland State University and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and will continue working on channeling federal resources for national invasive species research."
According to Greg Ruiz, director of the marine invasions research lab at SERC, the problem of biological invasions is increasingly viewed as a sustainability issue. The veined rapa whelk (Rapana venosa) for instance has affected shellfisheries in the Mediterranean and Black Sea and may threaten New England shellfisheries, as its range expands from its recent foothold in the Chesapeake Bay. The European Green Crab, a voracious predator on shellfish, has invaded both coastlines of the United States affecting both commercial and non-commercial species.
"Invasions are by their very nature a complex and multi-disciplinary issue," said Ruiz, "involving the interaction of biology with environmental science, and the economics and engineering inherent in the shipping and trade industries." Ross Simons, director for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center said, "the magnitude of the problem of aquatic invasive species requires creative new intellectual systems to develop solutions. The creation of this institute bringing together world class experts in both the biological and social sciences will lead to fresh approaches and resolution of some of the most biologically vexing problems of our times." The new Aquatic Bioinvasion Research Program is intended to provide a catalyst for multi-disciplinary understanding of biological invasions.
"This East Coast-West Coast partnership is good for Portland State University, for the region and for the nation," said Daniel O. Bernstine, president of PSU, "The scientists from PSU and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center have strong reputations for the excellent work they are doing in the area of aquatic invasive species. Our work together will support students, expand research opportunities and enhance sustainability efforts in Oregon and nationwide, particularly related to commerce, which is so important to our economy."
The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center is a world leader in ecological studies of coastal zones, and the Marine Invasions Research Laboratory is a world leader in the study of non-indigenous species ecology focused on assessing the patterns, mechanisms, and impacts of marine invasions throughout the world. The research group examines patterns and effects of biological invasions on a national scale, evaluates effectiveness of management strategies to reduce invasion risks and tracks patterns of commercial shipping and associated species transfers as a joint program. Additional emphasis is placed on developing information resources and outreach activities to provide access to extensive information on alien marine species, shipping patterns and relevant research.
The Center for Lakes and Reservoirs at Portland State University is a leader in aquatic invasive species research and policy development in the West. Work at the center includes examination of the biology and management of introduced freshwater and marine species as well as basic research on physical, chemical and trophic interactions in lakes. The center provides technical assistance on management of lakes and aquatic invasive species to state and federal management agencies, is primarily responsible for implementation of the Oregon Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan and is heavily involved in public education and outreach on invasive species.
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Note to Editors: For images of invasive species, please contact Kimbra Cutlip at (443) 482-2325