The invasion of Indo-Pacific lionfish is one of the most pressing concerns in the context of coral reef conservation throughout the Caribbean. Invasive lionfish threaten Caribbean fish communities by feeding on a wide range of native prey species, some of which have high ecological and economic value. In Roatan (Honduras) a local non-governmental organisation (i.e. Roatan Marine Park) trains residents and tourists in the use of spears to remove invasive lionfish. Here, we assess the effectiveness of local removal efforts in reducing lionfish populations. We ask whether reefs subject to relatively frequent removals support more diverse and abundant native fish assemblages compared to sites were no removals take place. Lionfish biomass, as well as density and diversity of native prey species were quantified on reefs subject to regular and no removal efforts. Reefs subject to regular lionfish removals (two to three removals month−1) with a mean catch per unit effort of 2.76 ± 1.72 lionfish fisher−1 h−1 had 95% lower lionfish biomass compared to non-removal sites. Sites subject to lionfish removals supported 30% higher densities of native prey-sized fishes compared to sites subject to no removal efforts. We found no evidence that species richness and diversity of native fish communities differ between removal and non-removal sites. We conclude that opportunistic voluntary removals are an effective management intervention to reduce lionfish populations locally and might alleviate negative impacts of lionfish predation. We recommend that local management and the diving industry cooperate to cost-effectively extend the spatial scale at which removal regimes are currently sustained.
The role of commercial harbours as sink and source habitats for non-indigenous species (NIS) and the role of recreational boating for their secondary spread were investigated by analysing the fouling community of five Italian harbours and five marinas in the western Mediterranean Sea. It was first hypothesised that NIS assemblages in the recreational marinas were subsets of those occurring in commercial harbours. However, the data did not consistently support this hypothesis: the NIS pools of some marinas significantly diverged from harbours even belonging to the same coastal stretches, including NIS occurring only in marinas. This study confirms harbours as hotspots for marine NIS, but also reveals that numbers of NIS in some marinas is higher than expected, suggesting that recreational vessels effectively facilitate NIS spread. It is recommended that this vector of NIS introduction is taken into account in the future planning of sustainable development of maritime tourism in Europe.
Despite promises that ‘healthy’ marine systems show increased resilience, the effects of ecosystem management strategies on invasion success in marine systems is still unclear. We show that resistance to the invasive alga, Sargassum horneri, in a temperate reef system occurs through alternate mechanisms in different ecosystem states. In an old marine protected area (MPA), invasion of S. horneri was suppressed, likely due to competitive pressure from native algae, resulting from protection of urchin predators. In a nearby fished urchin barren, invasion of S. horneri was also suppressed, due to herbivory by urchins whose predators are fished. Within newer MPAs with intermediate levels of interacting species, S. horneri was abundant. Here, neither competition from native algae nor herbivory was sufficient to prevent invasion. We confirm that invasion in marine systems is complex and show that multiple mechanisms in single systems must be considered when investigating biotic resistance hypotheses.
The 2011 East Japan earthquake generated a massive tsunami that launched an extraordinary transoceanic biological rafting event with no known historical precedent. We document 289 living Japanese coastal marine species from 16 phyla transported over 6 years on objects that traveled thousands of kilometers across the Pacific Ocean to the shores of North America and Hawai‘i. Most of this dispersal occurred on nonbiodegradable objects, resulting in the longest documented transoceanic survival and dispersal of coastal species by rafting. Expanding shoreline infrastructure has increased global sources of plastic materials available for biotic colonization and also interacts with climate change–induced storms of increasing severity to eject debris into the oceans. In turn, increased ocean rafting may intensify species invasions.
Alien species, one of the biggest threats to natural ecosystems worldwide, are of particular concern for oceanic archipelagos such as Galápagos. To enable more effective management of alien species, we reviewed, collated and analysed all available records of alien species for Galápagos. We also assembled a comprehensive dataset on pathways to and among the Galápagos Islands, including tourist and resident numbers, tourist vessels, their itineraries and visitation sites, aircraft capacity and occupancy, air and sea cargo and biosecurity interceptions. So far, 1,579 alien terrestrial and marine species have been introduced to Galápagos by humans. Of these, 1,476 have become established. Almost half of these were intentional introductions, mostly of plants. Most unintentional introductions arrived on plants and plant associated material, followed by transport vehicles, and commodities (in particular fruit and vegetables). The number, frequency and geographic origin of pathways for the arrival and dispersal of alien species to and within Galápagos have increased over time, tracking closely the increase in human population (residents and tourists) on the islands. Intentional introductions of alien species should decline as biosecurity is strengthened but there is a danger that unintentional introductions will increase further as tourism on Galápagos expands. This unique world heritage site will only retain its biodiversity values if the pathways for invasion are managed effectively.
Species invasions in marine ecosystems pose a threat to native fish communities and can disrupt the food webs that support valuable commercial and recreational fisheries. In the Gulf of Mexico, densities of invasive Indo-Pacific Lionfish, Pterois volitans and P. miles, are among the highest in their invaded range. In a workshop setting held over a 2-week period, we adapted an existing trophic dynamic model of the West Florida Shelf, located in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, to simulate the lionfish (both species) invasion and community effects over a range of harvest scenarios for both lionfish and native predators. Our results suggest small increases in lionfish harvest can reduce peak biomass by up to 25% and also that reduced harvest of native reef fish predators can lead to lower lionfish densities. This model can help managers identify target harvest and benefits of a lionfish fishery and inform the assessment and management of valuable reef fish fisheries.
Biological invasions are a substantial threat to Antarctic biodiversity and a priority conservation policy focus for Antarctic Treaty Parties and the sovereign states of surrounding islands. Key to their strategies is prevention, including assessment of establishment risk for alien species. Despite establishment of some of the worst globally invasive species across the Antarctic region, assessments of establishment potential of these species are non-existent. Here, we address this deficit and determine whether these invasive species constitute a significant conservation threat to the broader Antarctic region both now and in response to future regional climate change.
Antarctica and the Southern Ocean islands (45°–90° S).
We used ensemble species distribution models to assess the current and future climate suitability of the Antarctic region for 69 of the worst globally invasive species and 24 insect and plant species that have already established somewhere in the region.
The Antarctic continent is unsuitable for all of the worst globally invasive species under current conditions, but areas of the Antarctic Peninsula are predicted to become climatically suitable for up to six globally invasive species within the next century. By contrast, all Southern Ocean islands are presently climatically suitable for additional non-native species, with the threat increasing in the future.
Our findings demonstrate that climate, which is often cited as a key barrier to alien species establishment, may afford some protection to continental Antarctica, but that this protection is not currently extended to the Southern Ocean islands. Furthermore, existing climatic barriers to alien species establishment will weaken as warming continues across the region. This not only illustrates the value of applying distribution modelling methods to this largely ice-covered region, but demonstrates how these methods can be used to inform targeted surveillance of introduction pathways and sites that have the highest risk of establishment of invasive alien species.
The movement capacity of the crown-of-thorns starfishes (Acanthaster spp.) is a primary determinant of both their distribution and impact on coral assemblages. We quantified individual movement rates for the Pacific crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster solaris) ranging in size from 75–480 mm total diameter, across three different substrates (sand, flat consolidated pavement, and coral rubble) on the northern Great Barrier Reef. The mean (±SE) rate of movement for smaller (<150 mm total diameter) A. solaris was 23.99 ± 1.02 cm/ min and 33.41 ± 1.49 cm/ min for individuals >350 mm total diameter. Mean (±SE) rates of movement varied with substrate type, being much higher on sand (36.53 ± 1.31 cm/ min) compared to consolidated pavement (28.04 ± 1.15 cm/ min) and slowest across coral rubble (17.25 ± 0.63 cm/ min). If average rates of movement measured here can be sustained, in combination with strong directionality, displacement distances of adult A. solaris could range from 250–520 m/ day, depending on the prevailing substrate. Sustained movement of A. solaris is, however, likely to be highly constrained by habitat heterogeneity, energetic constraints, resource availability, and diurnal patterns of activity, thereby limiting their capacity to move between reefs or habitats.
The European Union’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) aims to adopt integrated ecosystem management approaches to achieve or maintain “Good Environmental Status” for marine waters, habitats and resources, including mitigation of the negative effects of non-indigenous species (NIS). The Directive further seeks to promote broadly standardized monitoring efforts and assessment of temporal trends in marine ecosystem condition, incorporating metrics describing the distribution and impacts of NIS. Accomplishing these goals will require application of advanced tools for NIS surveillance and risk assessment, particularly given known challenges associated with surveying and monitoring with traditional methods. In the past decade, a host of methods based on nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) analysis have been developed or advanced that promise to dramatically enhance capacity in assessing and managing NIS. However, ensuring that these rapidly evolving approaches remain accessible and responsive to the needs of resource managers remains a challenge. This paper provides recommendations for future development of these genetic tools for assessment and management of NIS in marine systems, within the context of the explicit requirements of the MSFD. Issues considered include technological innovation, methodological standardization, data sharing and collaboration, and the critical importance of shared foundational resources, particularly integrated taxonomic expertise. Though the recommendations offered here are not exhaustive, they provide a basis for future intentional (and international) collaborative development of a genetic toolkit for NIS research, capable of fulfilling the immediate and long term goals of marine ecosystem and resource conservation.
Protected areas (PAs) are intended to provide native biodiversity and habitats with a refuge against the impacts of global change, particularly acting as natural filters against biological invasions. In practice, however, it is unknown how effective PAs will be in shielding native species from invasions under projected climate change. Here, we investigate the current and future potential distributions of 100 of the most invasive terrestrial, freshwater, and marine species in Europe. We use this information to evaluate the combined threat posed by climate change and invasions to existing PAs and the most susceptible species they shelter. We found that only a quarter of Europe's marine and terrestrial areas protected over the last 100 years have been colonized by any of the invaders investigated, despite offering climatically suitable conditions for invasion. In addition, hotspots of invasive species and the most susceptible native species to their establishment do not match at large continental scales. Furthermore, the predicted richness of invaders is 11%–18% significantly lower inside PAs than outside them. Invasive species are rare in long-established national parks and nature reserves, which are actively protected and often located in remote and pristine regions with very low human density. In contrast, the richness of invasive species is high in the more recently designated Natura 2000 sites, which are subject to high human accessibility. This situation may change in the future, since our models anticipate important shifts in species ranges toward the north and east of Europe at unprecedented rates of 14–55 km/decade, depending on taxonomic group and scenario. This may seriously compromise the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. This study is the first comprehensive assessment of the resistance that PAs provide against biological invasions and climate change on a continental scale and illustrates their strategic value in safeguarding native biodiversity.