Jackson Estuarine Laboratory


Recent Invasions of the Gulf of Maine: Three Contrasting Ecological Histories


Introduced species are common members of estuarine communities where their role as competitors and predators is of concern, This paper examines the invasion of Gulf of Maine benthic habitats by the ecologically similar alien invertebrates Styela clava, Botrylloides diegensis , and Membranipora membranacea .

Styela clava increased slowly in abundance at study sites in Beverly, Massachusetts and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We found no evidence of competitive dominance by S. clava , even though it is the competitive dominant in similar habitats elsewhere. Botrylloides diegensis rapidly became a dominant species after its arrival in the Great Bay Estuary, but this dominance was short‐lived. B. diegensis persists in the estuary as an early colonist of primary space and as an epibiont on secondary substrates in established communities. Membranipora membranacea became the dominant epiphyte on laminarian kelps within two years. Although M. membranacea overgrew the native epiphytes Obelia geniculata and Electra pilosa in the overwhelming majority of encounters these native species are more common on other algal hosts. Therefore, competitive dominance is not likely a factor in the successful invasion of the Gulf of Maine by M. membranacea .

These species provide evidence for opposing views of the role of competition in mediating community invasion. We show that ecological similarity among species is not an accurate criterion to predict either the mechanism of invasion or the means of persistence. In addition, these data indicate that biological invasions must be examined on broad spatial and temporal scales; short‐term or narrowly focused studies can lead to incorrect conclusions.

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Journal Title

Conservation Biology


The Society for Conservation Biology

Document Type