Marine Biology

, 163:163 | Cite as

Spatial and temporal dynamics of ascidian invasions in the continental United States and Alaska

  • Christina Simkanin
  • Paul W. Fofonoff
  • Kristen Larson
  • Gretchen Lambert
  • Jennifer A. Dijkstra
  • Gregory M. Ruiz
Invasive Species - Original paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Invasive Species


Species introductions have increased dramatically in number, rate, and magnitude of impact in recent decades. In marine systems, invertebrates are the largest and most diverse component of coastal invasions throughout the world. Ascidians are conspicuous and well-studied members of this group, however, much of what is known about their invasion history is limited to particular species or locations. Here, we provide a large-scale assessment of invasions, using an extensive literature review and standardized field surveys, to characterize the invasion dynamics of non-native ascidians in the continental United States and Alaska. Twenty-six non-native ascidian species have established documented populations on the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts (spanning 25–57°N). Invader species richness is greatest for the Pacific coast (19 spp.), followed by the Atlantic (14 spp.) and Gulf (6 spp.) coasts, and decreases towards higher latitudes. Most species (97 %) expanded their range after initial introduction, although the direction and latitudinal extent of secondary spread varied. Temporal analyses, based on literature reported first records and repeated field surveys, show an increase in recorded non-native ascidians at continental, regional, and local scales. Our results underscore that non-native species continue to establish and spread, and the transfer of biofouling organisms on underwater surfaces of vessels is an active and potent vector that remains largely unmanaged. More broadly, we suggest that ascidians provide a tractable and important indicator group for evaluating invasion dynamics and management strategies.


Pacific Coast Gulf Coast Ballast Water Extensive Literature Review Invasion Pattern 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This paper is dedicated to the late Charles C. Lambert, who encouraged and inspired many of us with his enthusiasm and knowledge of ascidians. We thank James T. Carlton and Rosana Rocha for expert advice on global ascidian distributions and Stacey Havard and Brian Steves for assisting with management and analysis of fouling plate survey data collected by the Smithsonian Marine Invasions Research Lab. We wish to thank the large number of lab members and volunteers who helped with fouling plate surveys, including: Scott Cowan, Esther Collinetti, Tami Huber and Linda McCann. This research was supported by funding from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Sea Grant Program, Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council, Smithsonian Institution, United States Coast Guard, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the United States Department of Defense Legacy Program.

Supplementary material

227_2016_2924_MOESM1_ESM.docx (470 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 469 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina Simkanin
    • 1
  • Paul W. Fofonoff
    • 1
  • Kristen Larson
    • 1
  • Gretchen Lambert
    • 2
  • Jennifer A. Dijkstra
    • 3
  • Gregory M. Ruiz
    • 1
  1. 1.Smithsonian Environmental Research CenterEdgewaterUSA
  2. 2.University of Washington Friday Harbor LaboratoriesFriday HarborUSA
  3. 3.Center for Coastal and Ocean MappingUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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