Marine Bioinvasions in Anthropogenic and Natural Habitats: an Investigation of Nonindigenous Ascidians in British Columbia

Date

2013-08-27

Authors

Simkanin, Christina

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Abstract

The simultaneous increase in biological invasions and habitat alteration through the building of coastal infrastructure is playing an important role in reshaping the composition and functioning of nearshore marine ecosystems. This thesis examined patterns of marine invasions across anthropogenic and natural habitats and explored some of the processes that influence establishment and spread of invaders. The goals of this thesis were four-fold. First, I examined the habitat distribution of marine nonindigenous species (NIS) spanning several taxonomic groups and geographical regions. Second, I conducted systematic subtidal surveys in anthropogenic and natural habitats and investigated the distribution of nonindigenous ascidians on Southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Third, I tested methods for in-situ larval inoculations and utilized these techniques to manipulate propagule supply and assess post-settlement mortality of ascidians across habitat types. Fourth, I investigated the role of biotic resistance, through predation by native species, on the survival of ascidian colonies in anthropogenic and natural habitats. Results from this research showed that anthropogenic habitats are hubs for marine invasions and may provide beachheads for the infiltration of nearby natural sites. Specifically, a literature review of global scope showed that most NIS are associated with anthropogenic habitats, but this pattern varied by taxonomic group. Most algal and mobile invertebrate NIS were reported from natural habitats, while most sessile NIS were reported from artificial structures. Subtidal field surveys across both anthropogenic and natural habitats showed that nonindigenous ascidians were restricted largely to artificial structures on Southern Vancouver Island and that this pattern is consistent across their global introduced ranges. Field manipulations using the ascidian Botrylloides violaceus as a model organism, showed that post-settlement mortality is high and that large numbers of larvae or frequent introduction events may be needed for successful initial invasion and successful infiltration of natural habitats. Experiments also showed that predation by native species can limit the survival of B. violaceus in anthropogenic and natural habitats. This dissertation contributes knowledge about the patterns and processes associated with habitat invisibility; provides insight into factors affecting colonization; and supplies valuable information for predicting and managing invasions.

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Keywords

Marine Invasions, Ascidians, Subtidal Ecology, Anthropogenic habitats, Invasive Species

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