Restructuring the Sea: profound shifts in the world's most invaded marine ecosystem
Article first published online: 24 AUG 2012
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Diversity and Distributions
Volume 19, Issue 1, pages 69–77, January 2013
How to Cite
Edelist, D., Rilov, G., Golani, D., Carlton, J. T. and Spanier, E. (2013), Restructuring the Sea: profound shifts in the world's most invaded marine ecosystem. Diversity and Distributions, 19: 69–77. doi: 10.1111/ddi.12002
- Issue published online: 14 DEC 2012
- Article first published online: 24 AUG 2012
- Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Ministry of Environmental Protection
- Maritime Studies and the Rieger Foundation Fellowship for Environmental Studies
- Biological invasions;
- climate change;
- human impacts;
- invasive fish;
We examine fish invasions in the south-eastern Mediterranean as a model system for the invasibility of open coasts and provide perspectives through a review of global marine fish invasions.
South-eastern Mediterranean (Levant Sea).
We compare historical (1990–1994) and modern (2008–2011) trawl surveys from the Mediterranean continental shelf and upper slope of Israel to evaluate the relative abundance and biomass of Indo-Pacific fishes and their impact on diversity and trophic level (TrL). We examine resultant changes in community composition by both univariate and multivariate analyses, and compliment this study with a critical global review of open coast marine fish invasions.
A staggering 55 Indo-Pacific fish species have established permanent populations in the Mediterranean in the last 142 years, more than any other marine ecosystem. This process is accelerating with 13 of 27 new arrivals having established in the 21st century alone. Invasive fish biomass and abundance proportions in the shallow open coast have doubled in just two decades and today the Levantine ecosystem is dominated by non-native species. This proliferation has resulted in significant declines of some indigenous species, some to near extirpation levels.
Here, we show that non-estuarine ecosystems are much more susceptible to large-scale invasion pressures than previously thought. Our results place invasion in the same category with overexploitation, habitat destruction and pollution, processes normally considered as much more critical perturbations to coastal fish communities. We propose that despite these irreversible alterations, invasions have masked overall TrL changes and diversity declines by replacing native fish with invasives of similar ecological position. As species extirpations increase, we anticipate further declines in indigenous biomass, abundance and diversity in the Mediterranean Sea.