Dr. Lisamarie Carrubba NOAA Fisheries, Caribbean Field Office, Protected Resources Division Spread of the Non-Native Seagrass, Halophila stipulacea, in

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Dr. Lisamarie CarrubbaNOAA Fisheries, Caribbean Field Office, Protected Resources DivisionSpread of the Non-Native Seagrass, Halophila stipulacea, in the Caribbean1Atlantic Cod EFHEggsLarvaeJuvenilesAdultsNative to western Indian Ocean Red Sea and Persian Gulf, as well as coastal islands of Eastern Africa and Southeast coast of Indian subcontinentIn 1800s began to invade Eastern Mediterranean Sea via Suez CanalReached Malta in 1970, Ionian Sea in 1992, and north coast of Sicily in 1997First reported in Caribbean in 2002. Thought to have originally come from pleasure yacht traffic between Mediterranean and Caribbean.

History of Spread2History of Halophila stipulacea in CaribbeanObserved in Flamingo Bay, Grenada in 2002 (Ruiz and Ballantine 2004)Documented in Dominica and St. Lucia in 2009, including competition with Syringodium filiforme (manatee grass) (Willette and Ambrose 2009)Reported from Aruba, Curaao, Grenadines (Grenada), St. Eustatius, St. John (USVI), St. Martin (France), and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Willette et al. 2014)Site of Westin Hotel, Cruz Bay, St. John surveyed in 2005, 2012, and 2013 for dock replacement project no seagrass in footprint. Site resurveyed in March 2015and approximately 0.4 acre area around dock colonized by Halophila stipulacea.Benthic surveys for projects in Charlotte Amalie and Crown Bay areas, St. Thomas, found it dominates in portions of Long Bay and Crown Bay (2014-2015)Site inspections by NMFS to Flamingo Bay (dominant species) and Honeymoon Bay (patch), Water Island (July 2015)UVI tracking it in Brewers Bay (2010 not present, now spreading)Recently observed in 3 locations around Culebra and associated islands/cays (July 2015)3Characteristics of Halophila stipulaceaCan tolerate a wide range of salinitiesCan grow in very shallow water as well as depths greater than 50 mCan grow in a range of substrate typesSpeculated survival for extended periods as floating fragments and in vessel anchor wellsRapid vegetative expansionAdaptation to high irradianceMale and female and have been observed flowering in Caribbean

4Capacity for SpreadPreliminary experiments off St. John in 2014 showed lateral growth up to > 6 m/dayUp to 50% increase in biomass in 7 daysFish and invertebrates preferentially grazed on native seagrass speciesDensity up to > 10,000 shoots/m2

5Capacity for SpreadSteiner and Willette (2014) observed an increase and replacement of native species over 5 years and extension into reef halos

6NOAA CRCP FY16 RFP includes jurisdictional priority from USVI DPNR to to support the investigation of effects and management of invasive species, such as addressing key gaps for improving the understanding of ecosystem impacts from Halophila stipulaceaOpportunityPartners: UVI, NPS, and Dr. Willette (UCLA)Education and Outreach: updates to UVI webpage for reporting sightings (http://geocas.uvi.edu/citseagrass.php)Workshop to discuss potential impact in region (led by Dr. Wyllie-Echeverria who led work on Zostera japonica in Northeast Pacific)Questions: Degree to which Halophila stipulacea provides habitat to marine organisms (nutritional content, herbivory levels, habitat use)Whether it co-exists or out-competes native seagrass species Dispersal predictions based on data on current spreadCollaborationCFMC categorizes seagrass as EFH no species-specific designationESA language about habitat for green sea turtle also discusses broad category of seagrassMore projects with impacts to Halophila stipulacea affect EFH and ESA consultations and mitigation decisionsRegulatory ContextQuestions?

Flamingo Bay, Water Island

Dakity, Culebra IslandM. Padover10