Invasive animals threaten natives as oceans heat up

October 13, 2010
Native and non-native animals, including orange sea squirts and brown bryozoans, cover an experimental plate after six weeks in the waters of Bodega Bay. (Cascade Sorte/UC Davis photo)

Warmer oceans promote invasive animals and threaten natives, say UC Davis marine biologists who report striking new evidence from the eastern Pacific fishing harbor of Bodega Bay, Calif.

For 50 years, researchers at the university's Bodega Marine Laboratory have been monitoring plant and in the bay, said study co-author Susan Williams, a UC Davis professor of evolution and ecology and an expert on near-shore ecosystems. In that time, water temperatures have climbed more than 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit, and there are now twice as many nonnative species as there are natives.

To better understand what continued warming might mean for this and other saltwater communities, the UC Davis researchers recently studied so-called "fouling organisms" -- the squishy or prickly creatures that live on rocks, docks, boat hulls, seawater pipelines and shellfish farms.

The biologists carried these bryozoans (also called moss animals) and tunicates (sea squirts) from Bodega Bay to their laboratories, where they measured the creatures' tolerance to the higher water temperatures that have been predicted by climate scientists.

"We determined that introduced species tolerated significantly higher temperatures than natives," Williams said. "Our results strongly suggest that, as continue to increase, in this system will decrease in abundance, whereas introduced species are likely to increase."

Explore further: Climate Change Alters Base of Tahoe Food Web

More information: The research was described in the journals Ecology (August) and Oikos (online, July; print, in press).

Related Stories

Climate Change Alters Base of Tahoe Food Web

September 29, 2008

( -- UC Davis researchers at Lake Tahoe this week published the first evidence that climate change alters the makeup of tiny plant communities called algae, which are the very foundation of the web of life in ...

Fast-growing kelp invades San Francisco Bay

July 10, 2009

(AP) -- A fast-growing kelp from the Far East has spread along the California coast from Los Angeles to San Francisco Bay, worrying marine scientists and outpacing eradication efforts.

Invasive 'tunicate' appears in Oregon's coastal waters

May 13, 2010

An aggressive, invasive aquatic organism that is on the state's most dangerous species list has been discovered in both Winchester Bay and Coos Bay, and scientists say this "colonial tunicate" - Didemnum vexillum - has serious ...

On 'Earth week,' world is no longer our oyster

April 20, 2010

The world is no longer our oyster. As we prepare to celebrate Earth Day on April 22, we can add another species, one of widespread ecological and economic importance, to the list of the beleaguered.

Recommended for you

Turning biofuel waste into wealth in a single step

October 20, 2016

Lignin is a bulky chain of molecules found in wood and is usually discarded during biofuel production. But in a new method by EPFL chemists, the simple addition of formaldehyde could turn it into the main focus.

Amazonian frog has its own ant repellent

October 20, 2016

Special chemicals covering the skin of a tiny yellow-striped Amazonian frog provide a protective shield that wards off leaf-cutting ants allowing it to live comfortably among them. "It helps the frog blend in, because it ...

Scientists can listen to proteins by turning data into music

October 20, 2016

Transforming data about the structure of proteins into melodies gives scientists a completely new way of analyzing the molecules that could reveal new insights into how they work - by listening to them. A new study published ...

Strong, steady forces at work during cell division

October 20, 2016

Biologists who study the mechanics of cell division have for years disagreed about how much force is at work when the cell's molecular engines are lining chromosomes up in the cell, preparing to winch copies to opposite poles ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.