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Has Morro Bay Been Invaded? Characterization of the Non-Indigenous Invertebrate Macro-Fouling Community


Project Summary:

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Introduced or non-indigenous species have become a significant threat to natural communities and to the maintenance of biological diversity. Over 500 introduced species have now been identified in coastal waters of the United States. The arrival and establishment of non-native species can affect native community structure through a variety of mechanisms including direct competition, alteration of habitats, or shifts in trophic cascades. Although much attention has focused on the putative negative impacts of invasive species, more recent studies have also seek to determine potential positive impacts an invasive species. That said, the economic impact of invasive species is daunting as they directly affect recreational and commercial fisheries, human and wildlife health, and they cause extensive damage to human-made structures. Indeed, the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) has declared that all California coastal waters are impacted to some degree by invasive species.

Despite the extent of invasions around the globe and the potential for negative impacts on native communities we have a limited understanding of

  • how native communities are affected once invaders arrive,
  • which species are likely to invade new areas (e.g., reproductive or physiological characteristics),
  • how to manage invaders once they have arrived.

Moreover, the extent and impact of invasive species in small harbors has been largely overlooked. Our recent work seeks to provide insight into each of these critical areas through a series of focused empirical studies. Specifically, we have been investigating

  • the degree to which Morro Bay is invaded relative to other Bays and harbors within California;
  • how a dominant invasive, Watersipora subtorquata (Cheilostomata, Bryozoa) alters community structure;
  • the seasonal and spatial recruitment patterns of invasive species in Morro Bay.

Additionally, through analysis of previously collected data as part of our long-term survey of Morro Bay, we are also proposing to test the hypothesis that the majority of the fouling invasive species in small, isolated harbors (that do not receive ballast water) likely arrive via ship hull fouling or oyster culture. The work described above has been partially supported through the Morro Bay National Estuary Program.

People Involved:

  • Dr. Dean E. Wendt, Principal Investigator
  • Lisa Needles , Graduate Student
  • Nicholas Nesbit, Undergraduate
  • Caitrin Phillips, Undergraduate
  • Aubrey Swetek, Undergraduate
  • Emily Wilson, Undergraduate
  • Jennifer Yost, Undergraduate

Research Funded by: