Catherine E. de Rivera, Portland State UniversityFollow
Greg Ruiz, Smithsonian Environmental Research CenterFollow
Jeff Crooks, National Estuarine Research Reserve System
Kerstin Wasson, National Estuarine Research Reserve System
Steve Lonhart, National Marine Sanctuary Program
Paul Fofonoff, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Brian Steves, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Steven S. Rumrill, National Estuarine Research Reserve SystemFollow
Mary Sue Brancato, National Marine Sanctuary Program
Scott Pegau, National Estuarine Research Reserve System
Doug Bulthuis, National Estuarine Research Reserve System
Rikke Kvist Preisler, National Estuarine Research Reserve System
Carl Schoch, National Estuarine Research Reserve System
Ed Bowlby, National Marine Sanctuary Program
Andrew DeVogelaere, National Marine Sanctuary Program
Maurice Crawford, National Estuarine Research Reserve System
Steve Gittings, National Marine Sanctuary Program
Anson Hines, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Lynn Takata, National Marine Sanctuary Program
Kristen Larson, Smithsonian Environmental Research CenterFollow
Tami Huber, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Anne Marie Leyman, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Esther Collinetti, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Tiffany Pascot, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Suzanne Shull, National Estuarine Research Reserve System
Mary Anderson, National Estuarine Research Reserve System
Sue Powell, National Estuarine Research Reserve System

Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Nonindigenous aquatic pests -- Environmental aspects, Introduced organisms -- Control


Nonindigenous species have caused substantial environmental and economic damage to coastal areas. Moreover, the extent and impacts of nonindigenous species are increasing over time. To develop predictive models and to identify which areas should be targeted for impact mitigation or early detection, we need a basic foundation of knowledge about the spatial and temporal patterns of invasions. This project was developed because we lacked the necessary data to rigorously evaluate the patterns of coastal invasions. This collaborative project, between the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) and the National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP), established a rigorous, largescale monitoring and research program for invasive species in nine protected coastal areas along the US West Coast from San Diego, CA, to Kachemak Bay, AK. Our research included two components, broad-scale and site-specific projects.

The broad-scale component focused on using standardized protocols to collect data on the composition of fouling communities and nearshore fish and crabs. We collected data from 310 settling plates and 140 traps across nine NERRS Reserves and NMSP Sanctuaries. The four most common taxa on the settling plates were Bryozoa, Tunicata, Cirripedia, and Hydrozoa. We identified these four taxa and also Nudibranchia, a mobile molluscan taxa often associated with fouling organisms, to species and noted which were nonindigenous. We found 132 species in the 5 taxa under study. NIS accounted for over one quarter of the diversity in these taxa, with 31 NIS identified. Over half of tunicate species were non-native. The documented NIS included two new US west coast sitings plus 3 other range extensions. We documented two patterns in NIS, a latitudinal pattern and differences between NIS impacts in marinas versus non-marina sites; research on salinity differences is still underway. Both the number and percent of NIS decreased with increasing latitude. Tijuana River had the most, 21, NIS and Monterey Bay had the highest proportion of NIS (57%). The same pattern of decreasing NIS with increasing latitude was observed when we examined Tunicata only and Bryozoa only. Across latitudes, plates in marinas were more impacted by NIS than were plates in more natural areas. All NIS but one were found at marinas, whereas only half the NIS were found at the non-marina sites. In addition, NIS at marinas accounted for almost 80% of the NIS per site. Therefore, we were able to provide information on the relative risk of invasions for different taxonomic groups and geographic regions. The spatial and habitat patterns can be used for future predictions and will be of even more value once they are confirmed with additional taxonomic groups and hypothesis-driven studies that will continue from this initial study. Our broad-scale trapping study illustrated how recently-introduced NIS quickly can become numerically dominant. Although we only found Carcinus maenas at Elkhorn Slough NERR, this recently introduced nonindigenous crab was very common at this Reserve and was the most abundant crab in our traps at 3 of 7 Elkhorn sites.

The site-specific projects were conducted at each Reserve plus Olympic Coast and Monterey Bay Sanctuaries. Several are serving as the first important step in longer term research, such as examining whether a change in shipping policy in Kachemak Bay will increase NIS. Others, such as the South Slough project examining the effect of a salinity cline on the number and proportion of NIS, will be expanded to test hypotheses across several protected areas. Many of these site-specific projects still need further analyses, and analysis is underway.


Report to National Fish & Wildlife Foundation.

This report includes additional files.

Persistent Identifier