Non-native Seaweeds Drive Changes in Marine Coastal Communities Around the World

  • Mads Solgaard ThomsenEmail author
  • Thomas Wernberg
  • Paul M. South
  • David R. Schiel


We conducted a bibliographic survey, adding 69 taxa to a published list of 277 seaweeds, thereby updating the total worldwide list of non-native and cryptogenic seaweeds to 346. Polysiphonia Greville and Hypnea J.V. Lamouroux species were the most common taxa on this list, and the Mediterranean Sea and the NE Atlantic bioregions have received most of the 346 taxa. The most important vectors that carry non-native seaweeds are hull fouling and the transport of aquaculture products including ‘blind passengers’. Once a seaweed has arrived in a new location, it can establish a permanent population and spread through natural dispersal or human activity. Non-native seaweeds have negative impacts on native species through competition, habitat destruction and keystone competition, but also positive impacts through habitat formation, food provision and cascading habitat formation. Quantitative meta-analyses have shown that invasive seaweeds typically have a negative effect on local plants, but neutral or positive effects on animal communities. New meta-analyses presented here indicate that impacts increase with the abundance of non-native seaweeds and that non-native seaweeds may increase sample similarity in invaded plant communities, but not in animal communities. The literature on the impact of non-native seaweeds is extensive, but most studies have focused on a few high-profile species. Comprehensive analyses should be done for more species to allow for better predictions. We conclude that non-native seaweeds have altered shallow coastal communities in most biogeographical regions, and impacts will likely increase along with increases in human populations, transport and associated stressors.


Invasion impact Invasion success Meta-analysis New invasions Density-dependent effects Trophic matching hypothesis 



MST was supported by the Marsden Fund Council from Government funding, administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand. TW was supported by a Future Fellows grant from the Australian Research Council. DRS gratefully acknowledges the continued support by the New Zealand Ministry of Science and Innovation and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (contract C01X0501).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mads Solgaard Thomsen
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Thomas Wernberg
    • 3
    • 4
  • Paul M. South
    • 1
  • David R. Schiel
    • 1
  1. 1.Marine Ecology Research Group, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.Centre of Integrative Ecology, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  3. 3.UWA Oceans Institute, School of Plant BiologyThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  4. 4.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceCrawleyAustralia

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