Invasive ascidians—sac-like marine invertebrate filter feeders—are nuisance organisms that present a global threat. They contribute to biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation and impairment of ecosystem services around the world.
A new Tel Aviv University study finds that ships play an unknowing but dominant role in introducing and dispersing these tough-shelled non-indigenous organisms into new environments. The research showed that these marine invertebrates hitch a ride on half of all the marine vessels passing through Israel’s Mediterranean coast.
The research was conducted by Mey-Tal Gewing, of TAU’s School of Zoology and led by Dr. Noa Shenkar, also of TAU’s Department of Zoology and of The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History and Israel National Center for Biodiversity Studies. It was published in Marine Pollution Bulletin.
Hitching a ride
“These organisms are well known in the US and Canada,” Dr. Shenkar said. “In Israel, they are passing through the Suez Canal, latching onto ropes and the bottom of the ship. They’re filter feeders, so they cover and clog every surface they latch onto, creating a lot of drag for the ship and damaging marine biodiversity in their new environments. They’re a major threat to our coasts and are very costly to ship owners.”
Photo: NOAA National Ocean Service
To view the Creative Commons license for the image, click here.
Sign up today and take the pledge to help save our world's oceans and give a voice to the high seas by visiting us at: www.theterramarproject.org