Leave no traces – Beached marine litter shelters both invasive and native species
Marine litter has been considered a potential transport vector of non-indigenous species. In this study developed in Tjärnö (Sweden), at the entry of the Baltic Sea, the communities inhabiting coastal litter and natural substrates (N = 5448 macroorganisms) were monitored from eight sites of different ecological conditions. The results showed that litter can support high densities of marine organisms and represent a new habitat in the studied coast. The taxonomic profile of the communities supported by marine litter and hard natural substrate were significantly different. Moreover, opposite to the expectations of reduced diversity in artificial structures, more diverse communities were found on litter. Non-indigenous species were attached mainly to non-plastic artificial materials. From these results it can be concluded that marine litter can significantly alter the biotic composition of coastal ecosystem, representing a shelter for invasive species and diverse natives.