Preventing the invasion of alien species

A Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology article helps to protect oceans.

Amsterdam, 8 June 2004 - Pollution, over-fishing, and invasive alien species all have a negative impact on our oceans, but now there is further information available on the effects of the invasion of alien species. Put simply, prevention is the key to protecting our waters from such forces, as a study recently published by Elsevier in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology shows. 

“Can we predict the effects of alien species? A case-history of the invasion of South Africa by Mytilus galloprovincialis (Lamarck),” conducted by George M. Branch and C. Nina Steffani, from the Marine Biology Research Institute, Department of Zoology, at the University of Cape Town, examines the effects of the Mediterranean mussels off the western and southern shores of South Africa.

This announcement coincides with World Oceans Day, recognized globally on June 8th. The day was declared in 1992 at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and is aimed at allowing people to understand what oceans mean to them and how they can conserve these fragile ecosystems. This follows last week’s United Nations Environment Program’s World Environment Day, which also focused on seas and oceans.

"The introduction of alien species, no matter how noble or accidental the reason, can have catastrophic and unexpected impacts on local habitats, aquaculture facilities and fisheries. Professor Branch's invited review provides a splendid example and discussion of the potential impacts of introduced species, and sends a strong message with regard to prevention of introductions. This will be a landmark paper for years to come," said Dr. Sandra Shumway, from the Department of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut, and one of the editors-in-chief of Elsevier’s Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology

By examining factors such as previous invasions elsewhere, mode of dispersal, physical size and function, wave motion, consumption by higher species, and parasitism, Branch and Steffani were able to predict many of the effects and outcomes of the invasion.

The article shows that, despite forecasts, the spread of the mussels was unavoidable. In one instance, a mariculture transfer aided the spread of the species, when the mussels were introduced to the southern coast of South Africa. Further, though the predictions were quite detailed and accurate, one completely unforeseeable effect was the mass mortality of a swimming crab. 

"No matter how good we are at predicting the effects of alien species, there will always be surprises. Thus, prevention of arrival must remain the prime action against alien species," said Dr. Branch.

Elsevier publishes over nearly 40 marine and aquatic science-related journals, and is pleased to reaffirm its commitment to providing support to researchers, professors and students of marine biology and ecology. 

About the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology

The Journal provides a forum for work on the biochemistry, physiology, behavior, and genetics of marine plants and animals in relation to their ecology; all levels of biological organization are considered, including studies of ecosystems and ecological modeling. The main emphasis of the Journal lies in experimental work, both from the laboratory and the field.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Research Intelligence and ClinicalKey— and publishes over 2,500 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and more than 35,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a world-leading provider of information and analytics for professional and business customers across industries.