Ecology

A benevolent invader?

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Science  11 Aug 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6351, pp. 561-562
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6351.561-c

Plant and animal species introduced into non-native localities by humans sometimes become invasive, often with damaging ecological and economic consequences. However, Ramus et al. report an unusual case where an invasive species can be beneficial. Gracilaria vermiculophylla is a seaweed from the West Pacific that has been introduced to North Atlantic coastlines, where it has become invasive. In experimental manipulations of its abundance in North Carolina, USA, the seaweed enhanced an array of ecosystem functions by assuming the role of a “foundation” species that provides habitat for others. Benefits accrued to the abundance and species richness of gastropods and crustaceans and, through the attenuation of water flow, to coastal protection. Hence, toleration rather than eradication may be a pragmatic management strategy in this case.

An invasive West Pacific seaweed proves protective on the U.S. eastern seaboard.

PHOTO: LARS BRAMMER NEJRUP/NOBANIS, HTTP://WWW.NOBANIS.ORG

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1700353114 (2017).

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