Assemblage of encrusting organisms on floating anthropogenic debris along the northern coast of the Persian Gulf
Global concern about floating marine debris and its fundamental role in shaping coastal biodiversity is growing, yet there is very little knowledge about debris-associated rafting communities in many areas of the world's oceans. In the present study, we examined the encrusting assemblage on different types of stranded debris (wood, plastic, glass, and metal cans) along the Iranian coast of the Persian Gulf. In total, 21 taxa were identified on 132 items. The average frequency of occurrence (±SE) across all sites and stranded debris showed that the barnacle Amphibalanus amphitrite(68.9 ± 1.1%), the oyster Saccostrea cucullata (40.9 ± 0.7%), the polychaete Spirobranchus kraussii (27.3 ± 0.5%), green algae (22 ± 0.5%) and the coral Paracyathus stokesii(14.4 ± 0.7%) occurred most frequently. Relative substratum coverage was highest for A. amphitrite(44.3 ± 2.7%), followed by green algae (14.4 ± 1.5%), Spirobranchus kraussii (9.3 ± 1.3%), Saccostrea cucullata(7.6 ± 1.3%) and the barnacle Microeuraphia permitini(5.8 ± 0.9%). Despite the significant difference in coverage of rafting species on plastic items among different sites, there was no clear and consistent trend of species richness and coverage from the eastern (Strait of Hormuz) to the western part of the Persian Gulf. Some rafting species (bryozoans and likely barnacles) were found to be non-indigenous species in the area. As floating marine debris can transport non-indigenous species and increase the risk of bio-invasions to this already naturally- and anthropogenically-stressed water body, comprehensive monitoring efforts should be made to elucidate the vectors and arrival of new invasive species to the region.