, Volume 121, Issue 4, pp 721-730

Biogeography and dispersal of coastal marine organisms: experimental studies on a replica of a 16th-century sailing vessel

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Observational and experimental studies were conducted on the dispersal of fouling organisms on a replica of a 16th-century sailing vessel along an 800 km transect from Yaquina Bay, Oregon to San Francisco Bay, California. The vessel sailed between four bays at slow speeds (3.5 to 4 knots), resided in each bay for approximately 30 d, and spent 1 to 3 d in the open ocean travelling between ports. Natural hull fouling and experimental fouling panels placed on the vessel were sampled upon departure and arrival at each port. All common fouling species survived the open sea voyages between the harbors, with largely no ecologically significant changes in abundance nor significant losses in overall diversity detected. In one port the vessel settled upon the harbor floor periodically; several entrained benthic organisms were then transported 390 km to the next port. Slow-moving, fouled sailing vessels of relatively long port residencies may have significantly altered the distributions of marine and estuarine organisms not only globally (leading to the invasions of non-native species) but also along continental margins (leading to the alteration of aboriginal patterns of distribution). Shipping traffic may further play an important role in gene flow between isolated populations of obligate estuarine organisms, particularly those with non-planktonic larvae.
Communicated by J.P. Grassle, New Brunswick