Changing coasts: Marine aliens and artificial structures

Frédéric Mineur, Elizabeth J. Cook, Dan Minchin, Katrin Bohn, Adrian Macleod, Christine A. Maggs

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingOther chapter contribution

184 Citations (Scopus)


Marine aliens are non-native species that have been transported across major geographical barriers by human activities, involving vectors that move propagules along pathways. Species may also be newly observed in a geographical area due to range shifts, generally in association with climate change. Artificial structures are considered to be either man-made materials or natural materials shaped or displaced to serve a specific function for human activities. All types of artificial structures are currently increasing dramatically in coastal zones due to increasing human populations on coastlines. Most of the significant marine vectors and pathways involve mobile artificial structures and are reviewed here. These include shipping (ballast water and hull fouling) and aqua- culture, including stock transfer and unintentional introductions, all of which can move species into new biogeographical provinces. Some types of structures frequently move long distances but have low fouling loads (e.g., commercial shipping), whereas others (e.g., barges and pontoons) can be hyperfouled due to long stationary periods such that when moved they transport mature fouling communities. We also examine the presence of alien marine species on static (immobile) artificial structures, which support different communities from those on natural hard substrata. We consider the role of these structures, such as coastal defences, artificial reefs, and offshore platforms, in the dispersal and abundance of alien species. Marinas include both mobile and immobile structures and are apparently particularly favourable habitats for many aliens. For example, in coastal North America approximately 90% of the alien species inhabiting hard substrata have been reported from docks and marinas. Detailed case studies of alien marine species (two seaweeds and four invertebrates) are provided, with an analysis of their origin, vectors of transport, habitat in the introduced range, and potential impact. Although there are exceptions, a large majority of marine alien species seem to be associated, at least for some of the time, with artificial structures. It is clear that artificial structures can pave the way and act as stepping stones or even corridors for some marine aliens, as do urban areas, roads and riparian environments in terrestrial ecosystems. The observed acceleration of spread rates for marine invasions over the course of the last two centuries may partly be a result of the increase of artificial structures in coastal environments coupled with greater activity of vectors.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOceanography and Marine Biology
Subtitle of host publicationAn Annual Review
PublisherCRC Press
Number of pages46
ISBN (Electronic)9781439890004
ISBN (Print)9781439889985
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012

Publication series

NameOceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review
ISSN (Print)0078-3218


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