Undaria pinnatifida: A case study to highlight challenges in marine invasion ecology and management
Marine invasion ecology and management have progressed significantly over the last 30 years although many knowledge gaps and challenges remain. The kelp Undaria pinnatifida, or “Wakame,” has a global non‐native range and is considered one of the world's “worst” invasive species. Since its first recorded introduction in 1971, numerous studies have been conducted on its ecology, invasive characteristics, and impacts, yet a general consensus on the best approach to its management has not yet been reached. Here, we synthesize current understanding of this highly invasive species and adopt Undaria as a case study to highlight challenges in wider marine invasion ecology and management. Invasive species such as Undariaare likely to continue to spread and become conspicuous, prominent components of coastal marine communities. While in many cases, marine invasive species have detectable deleterious impacts on recipient communities, in many others their influence is often limited and location specific. Although not yet conclusive, Undaria may cause some ecological impact, but it does not appear to drive ecosystem change in most invaded regions. Targeted management actions have also had minimal success. Further research is needed before well‐considered, evidence‐based management decisions can be made. However, if Undaria was to become officially unmanaged in parts of its non‐native range, the presence of a highly productive, habitat former with commercial value and a broad ecological niche, could have significant economic and even environmental benefit. How science and policy reacts to the continued invasion of Undaria may influence how similar marine invasive species are handled in the future.