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Breaking: 53 Non-Native Marine Species Identified in Galapagos

March 28, 2019

Cargo dock in San Cristobal, Galapagos

A cargo dock on San Cristóbal Island, Galapagos (© Inti Keith/CDF)

A new study published in Aquatic Invasions reported that 53 non-native marine species have been identified in the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) — a 90% increase from the number previously known by scientists. This is the greatest percent increase reported in a single study with regard to the number of invasions for a tropical marine environment worldwide, and scientists expect that number to grow as this work continues. These introduced species likely arrived in Galapagos by boat traffic; e.g. by attaching to a boat’s hull in a different part of the world. Increasing tourism to the Islands and climate change also play a role in the arrival of marine invasive species.

Dr. Inti Keith of the Charles Darwin Foundation’s Marine Invasive Species Program — an effort Galapagos Conservancy has supported since its inception in 2014 — co-authored the study in which she and other scientists hung settlement plates approximately three feet underwater from several docks in the Islands to determine which species would grow on them over the course of about 14 months. They also collected samples from mangrove roots, dock pilings, and natural driftwood in several additional locations.

These findings set the stage for vital future research on marine invasive species, particularly given that this study likely reflects only a fraction of the actual number of non-native species in the GMR given this study’s limited scope and duration. It also suggests that the number of marine invasions in tropical marine habitats may be significantly underestimated in other parts of the world. View the publication.

With support from Galapagos Conservancy, the team from the Charles Darwin Foundation’s Marine Invasive Project is working with the Galapagos National Park Directorate to establish an early detection system in the main Galapagos ports. This will help local authorities quickly identify and eliminate non-native marine species before they spread. The CDF group is collaborating with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center to expand the deployment of settlement plates on other islands in Galapagos and throughout the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

Galapagos Conservancy is proud to have supported research into this emerging issue since the project began, and will continue to do so in the coming years. Read more about this important effort.

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