Anthropogenic structures and the infiltration of natural benthos by invasive ascidians


Christina Simkanin, Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC V8W 3N5, Canada.


Anthropogenic habitats such as marinas and docks are focal points for marine invasions, but relatively little is known about the infiltration of nearby natural habitats by these invaders. To address infiltration by four geographically widespread ascidian invaders, we used a two-step approach: (i) a field survey with equitable sampling in adjacent artificial and natural habitats in British Columbia, Canada, and (ii) a literature review, to infer larger scale patterns across species’ introduced global ranges. Our field survey revealed differential distribution patterns among the four ascidians recorded, with infiltration of natural rocky habitats by two species, Botrylloides violaceus and Botryllus schlosseri. We did not record Didemnum vexillum or Styela clava in natural habitats, though they were both recorded on adjacent artificial structures. Globally, these ascidian species are predominantly found associated with anthropogenic habitats including floating docks, pilings and aquaculture installations, but they have infiltrated natural habitats in some areas of their introduced range. The factors contributing to infiltration of nearby natural benthic habitats remains unclear, but determining which mechanisms are important for encouraging or hindering the establishment and spread of nonindigenous species beyond artificial structures requires survey and experimental work beyond anthropogenic habitats. Such work will aid our understanding of marine introduction dynamics, invasiveness, and associated management implications.