Biological Invasions

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 79–97 | Cite as

Secondary spread of invasive species: historic patterns and underlying mechanisms of the continuing invasion of the European rockweed Fucus serratus in eastern North America

  • Ladd E. Johnson
  • Susan H. Brawley
  • Walter H. Adey
Original Paper


Post-establishment spread of invasive species is a major determinant of their impact, but the spatial pattern and temporal rhythm of secondary spread are often poorly known or understood. Here we examine the spread of the European rockweed Fucus serratus over 1,500 km of shoreline after its initial discovery in Pictou, Nova Scotia (Canada) in 1868. Building upon earlier periodic surveys, we document the current distribution of this invader and provide a historic analysis of the invasion, including the integration of the recently-detected multiple introductions from Europe. The initial spread was rapid in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (6.0 km year−1), likely due to both natural spread in a favorable environment and the extensive regional shipping traffic at the time which linked Pictou to several key ports in eastern Canada and northeast USA. Later spread, especially along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, was slower (recently 0.9 km year−1), but included several major jumps (~50–500 km), undoubtedly due to human-mediated transport. Although the spatial extent of the invasion has increased over the past 140 years, it has experienced several remarkable events: apparent local extinctions of northern satellite populations, a major retraction (100–150 km) along the northwestern limits of its continuous range, and stalled invasions at several points and times during its southward progression. Distributional data suggest that this invader is excluding congeners in shallow zones and possibly kelp species in deeper zones. Genetic data from one contact zone showed hybridization with native F. distichus but no evidence for introgression in migrating F. serratus. Hybridization and several other reproductive traits likely contribute to the competitive dominance of the invader in this environment.


Algae Biological invasion Biogeographic model Canadian Maritimes Dispersal Hybridization Non-indigenous species Range expansion Seaweed 



We gratefully acknowledge funding from the National Geographic Society (SHB and LEJ), the National Science Foundation (SHB), the Canadian-American Center of the University of Maine (SHB) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada (LEJ). We thank Richard Moe (UC-Berkeley) for uncovering Capt. Nicolas Pike’s connection to English sparrows and the Cornell University’s Cornell Computational Biology Service Unit for free availability of InStruct and Distruct. SHB acknowledges the hospitality and help of Cliff Cunningham, his laboratory (particularly Bernie Ball), and the sequencing labs at Duke University and the University of Maine; Donald MacIsaac for illuminating local Pictou history; Doug Campbell, Amanda Cockshutt, Daniel Richard and Suzanne Craig for repeated hospitality during field work; and the curators of the herbaria at Harvard University, Cornell University, and the New Brunwick Museum for loaning specimens, especially Stephen Clayden, who also provided biographic materials on George Hay and John Fowler. We appreciate comments from Devin Lyons and an anonymous reviewer on an earlier draft of this paper. Finally, we acknowledge and applaud the efforts of past scientists who documented the distribution of this invasive species, thereby creating the foundations of this study.

Supplementary material

10530_2011_9976_MOESM1_ESM.doc (6.5 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 6677 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ladd E. Johnson
    • 1
  • Susan H. Brawley
    • 2
  • Walter H. Adey
    • 3
  1. 1.Département de biologie and Québec-OcéanUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  2. 2.School of Marine SciencesUniversity of MaineOronoUSA
  3. 3.MRC-166/BotanySmithsonian InstitutionWashingtonUSA

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