Non-indigenous species as stressors in estuarine and marine communities: Assessing invasion impacts and interactions

Ruiz, Gregory M., Paul Fofonoff, Anson H. Hines, Edwin D. Grosholz

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(3_part_2), 1999, 950-972 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.3_part_2.0950

ABSTRACT: Invasions by non-indigenous species (NIS) are recognized as important stressors of many communities throughout the world. Here, we evaluated available data on the role of NIS in marine and estuarine communities and their interactions with other anthropogenic stressors, using an intensive analysis of the Chesapeake Bay region as a case study. First, we reviewed the reported ecological impacts of 196 species that occur in tidal waters of the bay, including species that are known invaders as well as some that are cryptogenic (i.e., of uncertain origin). Second, we compared the impacts reported in and out of the bay region for the same 54 species of plants and fish from this group that regularly occur in the region’s tidal waters. Third, we assessed the evidence for interaction in the distribution or performance of these 54 plant and fish species within the bay and other stressors. Of the 196 known and possible NIS, 39 (20%) were thought to have some significant impact on a resident population, community, habitat, or process within the bay region. However, quantitative data on impacts were found for only 12 of the 39, representing 31% of this group and 6% of all 196 species surveyed. The patterns of reported impacts in the bay for plants and fish were nearly identical: 29% were reported to have significant impacts, but quantitative impact data existed for only 7% (4/54) of these species. In contrast, 74% of the same species were reported to have significant impacts outside of the bay, and some quantitative impact data were found for 44% (24 /54) of them. Although it appears that 20% of the plant and fish species in our analysis may have significant impacts in the bay region based upon impacts measured elsewhere, we suggest that studies outside the region cannot reliably predict such impacts. We surmise that quantitative impact measures for individual bays or estuaries generally exist for <5% of the NIS present, and many of these measures are not particularly informative. Despite the increasing knowledge of marine invasions at many sites, it is evident that we understand little about the full extent and variety of the impacts they create singly and cumulatively. Given the multiple anthropogenic stressors that overlap with NIS in estuaries, we predict NIS-stressor interactions play an important role in the pattern and impact of invasions.

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