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Shining a light on marine pests

09
Apr 2019

Posted By

ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies

Exotic, or introduced, species are a threat across the globe. Some are pests that push native species to extinction, while others become useful within their new habitats. Such a contrast fuels a contemporary debate about their overall impact.

New research in Nature Ecology & Evolution now quantifies the global effect of exotic species in marine ecosystems.

Lead author Dr Andrea Anton, from the Red Sea Research Center at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), says the study found ten percent of exotic marine species were invasive—pests—with a clear and significant global ecological impact.

“In our study, previously unknown ecological patterns were identified,” Dr Anton says. “This includes a trend of exotic marine predators and primary producers being the most disruptive trophic groups.”

“Our global and quantitative analyses provide a way forward in the debate on how detrimental or helpful exotic species are to native marine communities,” adds co-author Prof John Pandolfi from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at the University of Queensland.

A total of 76 marine species were studied, which represents six percent of those marine and brackish exotic species listed in the Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species (GRIIS). The study provides a ranking of these species based on their quantified ecological effects on native communities, effectively separating the harmless from the troublesome pests.

The distinction between the exotic species is boost for meeting Aichi Biodiversity Target 9 of the Convention on Biological Diversity—crucial for developing and disseminating guidance for controlling marine exotic species with the most impact in protected areas.

The authors conclude, “exotic species induce significant changes on many ecological attributes of marine systems.” Though they also note the global effect is modest in magnitude compared to other quantified human stressors.

For more information:

Anton A, Geraldi N, Lovelock C, Apostolaki E, Bennett S, Cebrian J, Krause-Jensen D, Marbà N, Martinetto P, Pandolfi J, Santana-Garcon J, and Duarte C (2019). ‘Global ecological impacts of marine exotic species’. Nature Ecology & Evolution: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-019-0851-0

Exotic lionfish (Pterois volitans) in the Caribbean. Photo credit: Andrea Anton
Exotic lionfish (Pterois volitans) in the Caribbean. Photo credit: Andrea Anton

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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au