NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

Aboard the transoceanic invasive species mobile

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It’s Invasive Species Awareness Week, and did you know that there’s the potential for invasive species to spread by hitching a ride on marine debris? A floating net, buoy, plastic container, or other piece of marine debris can harbor algae, mollusks, barnacles, crabs, or other species and transport them across the ocean to regions where they’re non-native. If the species is invasive, it can do serious damage to the ecosystem where the debris lands.

In some cases, natural disasters introduce items into the open ocean from coastal zones, such as small boats, floating docks and aquaculture gear (nets, cages, floats), that have been colonized by intertidal and shallow water organisms. After the 2011 tsunami in Japan, NOAA and its state partners focused on the potential for marine debris generated by the tsunami to bring non-native species to U.S shorelines.

Rebeka Ryvola, a Research Associate at the Ecologic Institute, described for us in this post how invasive species can be bad news for biodiversity. Take a look.

Marine organisms attach to chunks of trash like foamed plastic. Credit: Lindsey Hoshaw

 

NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

By guest blogger Rebeka Ryvola, Ecologic Institute

When introduced into new environments, invasive species can be a major problem.  Invasives – species living in a certain area where they don’t belong – can harm the native species present or out-survive them and cause dramatic ecosystem changes. The changes are usually for the worse.

Humans are often unwittingly instrumental in helping these species infiltrate new territories, and we’re finding more and more evidence that marine debris is a culprit.

Invasive species stage their “invasions” in a number of ways. They can float through the air, travel by water currents, or cling to migrating animals. On land, species such as insects and plants can hitchhike by lurking in suitcases, in and on cars, on bicycles, and even on your clothing. Oceanic species – such as barnacles, mollusks, algae, and fish – can attach themselves to boats or stow away in ship ballast…

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Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

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