Big changes to a small bay: introduced species and long-term compositional shifts to the fouling community of Morro Bay (CA)
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- Needles, L.A. & Wendt, D.E. Biol Invasions (2013) 15: 1231. doi:10.1007/s10530-012-0362-2
Invasive species are cited as being a threat to communities and ecosystems worldwide, yet few studies have demonstrated invader impacts at these scales. Lack of historic data makes capturing large-scale community shifts problematic. We assessed long-term changes in invertebrate composition to the fouling community of a small estuary with relatively little boat traffic and no ballast water input (Morro Bay, CA). We also compared relative invasiveness of Morro Bay to international harbors (San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles/San Diego harbors). While the proportion of introduced species has not significantly changed from historic records, introduced species now occupy 86.00 % of the primary substrate. Other community shifts include; (1) a state shift to an invasive bryozoan (Watersipora subtorquata) dominated community, (2) a decrease in Mollusc richness and, (3) substantial shifts in abundance of certain species. Compared to larger more actively used harbors, Morro Bay has proportionally fewer introduced species (12.00 %) than San Francisco Bay (50.79 %) or Los Angeles/San Diego Harbors (26.23 %). Our study documents changes to a small relatively isolated estuary with little boat traffic and no ballast water input. We discuss the potential role of invasive species and other natural and anthropogenic factors as drivers of these community wide shifts. Specifically, we discuss how reintroduction of the Southern Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris nereis), an increase in sea stars (Pisaster spp.), climate change and interaction amongst potential drivers support the patterns of shifts in the Morro Bay community.