Invasive alien species (IAS) are currently considered one of the greatest threats to global marine ecosystems. Thus, ships and maritime activity have been identified as the main factors responsible for the vast majority of accidental species translocations around the world, implying that prevention should be the core of environmental port policies. Preventive port strategies should include analyzing risks based on traffic origins and volumes, revising port policies for inspections, estimating probabilities of non-indigenous species (NIS) appearance, monitoring routine species within ports, and finally implementing management plans and focused actions. Here, we conducted a comprehensive NIS prediction analysis for the port of Gijon (northern Spain), one of the largest ports in the south Bay of Biscay, as a case study that can be extrapolated to other international seaports. An extensive bibliographic search (1953–2020) was conducted and we identified 380 species that have been transported through hull fouling and ballast water around the world. We evaluated their likelihood of arriving (from 14 years of traffic data) and becoming established (from habitat suitability and demonstrated impacts and invasion ability) within the Gijon port, creating a new NIS Invasion Threat Score (NIS-ITS). This new index could help to identify target species that are likely invaders for early detection and prevention policies within the port. The results showed that 15 NIS had >90% likelihood of becoming a biological invasion problem in Gijon Port. At the same time, we reported morphological and genetic analysis of biota found in two successive annual monitoring surveys of Gijon port and ships (n = 612 individuals) revealing 18 NIS, including 6 of the NIS predicted from high NIS-ITS. Actually, 80% (12 NIS) of those potentially most dangerous species (NIS-ITS > 90%) have already been detected in the Bay of Biscay area. We propose the use of this new tool for a risk-reduction strategy in ports, based on accurate predictions that help in promoting specific early detection tests and specific monitoring for NIS that have a high chance of establishment. All international seaports can adopt this strategy to address the problem of biological invasions and become “blueports” in line with EU policy.
Ecological profiling of non-native species is essential to predict their dispersal and invasiveness potential across different areas of the world. Cassiopea is a monophyletic taxonomic group of scyphozoan mixotrophic jellyfish including C. andromeda, a recent colonizer of sheltered, shallow-water habitats of the Mediterranean Sea, such as harbors and other light-limited, eutrophic coastal habitats. To assess the ecophysiological plasticity of Cassiopea jellyfish and their potential to spread across the Mare Nostrum by secondary introductions, we investigated rapid photosynthetic responses of jellyfish to irradiance transitions—from reduced to increased irradiance conditions (as paradigm of transition from harbors to coastal, meso/oligotrophic habitats). Laboratory incubation experiments were carried out to compare oxygen fluxes and photobiological variables in Cassiopea sp. immature specimens pre-acclimated to low irradiance (PAR = 200 μmol photons m−2 s−1) and specimens rapidly exposed to higher irradiance levels (PAR = 500 μmol photons m−2 s−1). Comparable photosynthetic potential and high photosynthetic rates were measured at both irradiance values, as also shown by the rapid light curves. No significant differences were observed in terms of symbiont abundance between control and treated specimens. However, jellyfish kept at the low irradiance showed a higher content in chlorophyll a and c (0.76±0.51SD vs 0.46±0.13SD mg g-1 AFDW) and a higher Ci (amount of chlorophyll per cell) compared to jellyfish exposed to higher irradiance levels. The ratio between gross photosynthesis and respiration (P:R) was >1, indicating a significant input from the autotrophic metabolism. Cassiopea sp. specimens showed high photosynthetic performances, at both low and high irradiance, demonstrating high potential to adapt to sudden changes in light exposure. Such photosynthetic plasticity, combined with Cassiopea eurythermal tolerance and mixotrophic behavior, jointly suggest the upside-down jellyfish as a potentially successful invader in the scenario of a warming Mediterranean Sea.
Although research into the ecology and impacts of invasive species is prevalent, there are knowledge gaps relating to the role of invasive species in parasite transmission. This work synthesises invasive host–parasite interactions and impacts, using marine bivalves as a model group, to consider how global movement of shellfish consignments for aquaculture purposes facilitates the unintentional transfer of invasives. We discuss how invasive species can act as both hosts or parasitic organisms themselves, and introductions may lead to diseases within the bivalve aquaculture sector. This review highlights the importance of interdisciplinary research, with particular regard to the fields of parasitology and invasion ecology. We suggest that further integrating these fields will enhance critical knowledge of marine diseases, parasite-invasive-bivalve interplay dynamics, and potential mitigation strategies, including temperature-based disease surveillance models. We also address how climate change might impact invasive species, again with a focus on marine bivalves, and the potential outcomes for parasite transmission, including changes in host/parasite distribution, life-history and virulence. We acknowledge the importance of horizon scanning for future invasive host–parasite introductions and note that increased screening of invasive species, both in their native and invaded ranges, will provide clarity on invasion dynamics and potential impacts.
The marine environment is particularly at risk from the intentional and unintentional introduction and spread of invasive alien species (IAS); preventing their introduction and spread from occurring is therefore, a key component in the on-going management of marine IAS. Ensuring legislation is coherent and consistent is essential to the success of managing the existing and future impacts of marine IAS. We explore the coherence (determined as consistency and interaction) of marine biosecurity legislation for IAS at different geopolitical scales. There was consistency between both the Bern Convention and Convention on Biological Diversity and European and national legislation that had been created in response. There was a lack of interaction evidenced by the Ballast Water Management Convention, which had not yet been transposed into regional (mainly European) or national legislation. Implementation measures such as legislation should be coherent as any failure in the chain could potentially weaken the overall effort to establish and maintain biosecurity and achieve behaviour change.
Indo-Pacific lionfish have become invasive throughout the western Atlantic. Their predatory effects have been the focus of much research and are suggested to cause declines in native fish abundance and diversity across the invaded range. However, little is known about their non-consumptive effects, or their effects on invertebrates. Lionfish use shelters on the reef, thus there is potential for competition with other shelter-dwelling organisms. We demonstrate similar habitat associations between invasive lionfish, native spiny lobsters (Panulirus argus) and native long-spined sea urchins (Diadema antillarum), indicating the potential for competition. We then used a laboratory experiment to compare activity and shelter use of each species when alone and when lionfish were paired with each native species. Spiny lobsters increased their activity but did not change their shelter use in the presence of a lionfish, whilst long-spined sea urchins changed neither their activity nor shelter use. However, lionfish reduced their shelter use in the presence of spiny lobsters and long-spined sea urchins. This study highlights the importance not only of testing for the non-consumptive effects of invasive species, but also exploring whether native species exert non-consumptive effects on the invasive.
Spearfishing is currently the primary approach for removing invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles) to mitigate their impacts on western Atlantic marine ecosystems, but a substantial portion of lionfish spawning biomass is beyond the depth limits of SCUBA divers. Innovative technologies may offer a means to target deepwater populations and allow for the development of a lionfish trap fishery, but the removal efficiency and potential environmental impacts of lionfish traps have not been evaluated. We tested a collapsible, non-containment trap (the ‘Gittings trap’) near artificial reefs in the northern Gulf of Mexico. A total of 327 lionfish and 28 native fish (four were species protected with regulations) recruited (i.e., were observed within the trap footprint at the time of retrieval) to traps during 82 trap sets, catching 144 lionfish and 29 native fish (one more than recruited, indicating detection error). Lionfish recruitment was highest for single (versus paired) traps deployed <15 m from reefs with a 1-day soak time, for which mean lionfish and native fish recruitment per trap were approximately 5 and 0.1, respectively. Lionfish from traps were an average of 19 mm or 62 grams larger than those caught spearfishing. Community impacts from Gittings traps appeared minimal given that recruitment rates were >10X higher for lionfish than native fishes and that traps did not move on the bottom during two major storm events, although further testing will be necessary to test trap movement with surface floats. Additional research should also focus on design and operational modifications to improve Gittings trap deployment success (68% successfully opened on the seabed) and reduce lionfish escapement (56% escaped from traps upon retrieval). While removal efficiency for lionfish demonstrated by traps (12–24%) was far below that of spearfishing, Gittings traps appear suitable for future development and testing on deepwater natural reefs, which constitute >90% of the region’s reef habitat.
Lionfish (Pterois volitans) have rapidly invaded the tropical Atlantic and spread across the wider Caribbean in a relatively short period of time. Because of its high invasion capacity, we used it as a model to identify the connectivity among nine marine protected areas (MPAs) situated in four countries in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. This study provides evidence of local genetic differentiation of P. volitans in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. A total of 475 lionfish samples were characterized with 12 microsatellites, with 6–20 alleles per locus. Departures from Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium (HWE) were found in 10 of the 12 loci, all caused by heterozygous excess. Moderate genetic differentiation was observed between Chiriviche, Venezuela and Xcalak, México localities (FST = 0.012), and between the Los Roques and the Veracruz (FST = 0.074) sites. STRUCTURE analysis found that four genetic entities best fit our data. A unique genetic group in the Gulf of Mexico may imply that the lionfish invasion unfolded both in a counterclockwise manner in the Gulf of Mexico. In spite of the notable dispersion of P. volitans, our results show some genetic structure, as do other noninvasive Caribbean fish species, suggesting that the connectivity in some MPAs analyzed in the Caribbean is limited and caused by only a few source individuals with subsequent genetic drift leading to local genetic differentiation. This indicates that P. volitans dispersion could be caused by mesoscale phenomena, which produce stochastic connectivity pulses. Due to the isolation of some MPAs from others, these findings may hold a promise for local short‐term control of by means of intensive fishing, even in MPAs, and may have regional long‐term effects.
Invasive species pose a significant threat to a primary objective of marine conservation, protecting native biodiversity. To-date, research quantifying invasion risk to marine protected areas (MPAs) is limited despite potential negative consequences. As a first step towards identifying invasion risk to MPAs via vessel ballast or biofouling, we evaluated vessel traffic patterns by applying graph-theoretic concepts for 1346 vessels that connected invaded areas (‘invasion nodes’) along the Northeast Pacific coast to MPAs within Canadian waters in 2016. We found that 29% of MPAs overlapped with invasion nodes and 70% were connected to invasion nodes via vessel traffic. Recreational vessels were most prevalent within invasion and MPA nodes, made the most connections between invasion nodes and MPAs, and spent the most time within nodes. Vessel connections increased in summer and with spatial extent and dock area at invasion and MPA nodes, as well as for MPAs with minimal regulatory protection. Results from this work highlight risk posed by vessels as a vector for nonindigenous species spread and present an opportunity to develop improved management measures to help protect MPAs. Such an approach can be applied to vector interactions with protected areas across biomes for targeted invasion management.
Antarctic shallow coastal marine communities were long thought to be isolated from their nearest neighbours by hundreds of kilometres of deep ocean and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The discovery of non–native kelp washed up on Antarctic beaches led us to question the permeability of these barriers to species dispersal. According to the literature, over 70 million kelp rafts are afloat in the Southern Ocean at any one time. These living, floating islands can play host to a range of passenger species from both their original coastal location and those picked in the open ocean. Driven by winds, currents and storms towards the coast of the continent, these rafts are often cited as theoretical vectors for the introduction of new species into Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands. We found non-native kelps, with a wide range of “hitchhiking” passenger organisms, on an Antarctic beach inside the flooded caldera of an active volcanic island. This is the first evidence of non-native species reaching the Antarctic continent alive on kelp rafts. One passenger species, the bryozoan Membranipora membranacea, is found to be an invasive and ecologically harmful species in some cold-water regions, and this is its first record from Antarctica. The caldera of Deception Island provides considerably milder conditions than the frigid surrounding waters and it could be an ideal location for newly introduced species to become established. These findings may help to explain many of the biogeographic patterns and connections we currently see in the Southern Ocean. However, with the impacts of climate change in the region we may see an increase in the range and number of organisms capable of surviving both the long journey and becoming successfully established.
Marine bioinvasions require integrating monitoring tools with other complementary strategies. In this study, we collected information about the invasive Callinectes sapidus in Italy, Croatia and Montenegro, by means of online questionnaires administered to recreational fishers (n = 797). Our records matched the current distribution of the species: C. sapidus resulted far more common in the Adriatic, than in the Tyrrhenian sector. Most respondents rated the species as ‘occasional’ or ‘rare’. Moreover, the more C. sapidus was considered to be abundant, the more fishers tended to perceive it as a negative disturbance over fisheries and the environment. Our findings suggest that C. sapidus is more common than previously thought in the most of the study area, and it could have reached the levels of a true invasions in the south-eastern Adriatic Sea. This experience demonstrates that online questionnaires can be appropriate tools to effectively engage stakeholders in alien species monitoring.