Recording Marine Non-Native Species
Marine Non-Native Species are species that have been introduced either accidentally or deliberately into our marine habitats. Some are harmless while others can be invasive and swamp areas of our coastline. Invasive Non-Native Species have the potential to change our coastal biodiversity which is renowned for its productivity, beauty and diversity. They do this by having the potential to out-compete our native species, bring about economic damage to our aquaculture, spread disease and degrade our water quality. Left unchecked they can cause damage that is difficult or impossible to reverse. Non-Native Marine Species have not been successfully eradicated from the UK (JNCC) and Non- Native Species are estimated to cost the UK 1.7 billion annually (NNSS).
As a Natural Talent Trainee with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) these Marine Aliens are my main focus for the next year. The TCV Natural Talent programme is a UK wide programme funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation that responds to identified skills shortages in the conservation sector. Based at Heriot Watt University and working with many people in the environmental sector my traineeship is all about learning which Non-Native Species are in our waters, what effects they are having and what we can do about them. The most important aspect of my work is getting people involved in much needed monitoring and recording as there is currently no survey dedicated to Marine Non-Natives. This is what makes the Natural Talent programme extremely valuable as it generates opportunities to increase the capacity of volunteers and communities playing an active role in surveying, mapping and management to increase the biodiversity value of local sites.
Marine Invasive Species can be surveyed in many ways. Some methods are more accessible to the public and volunteers than others. Methods include diving surveys, taking scrape samples from buoys and piers, placing and retrieving settlement panels, surveying the seashore and looking at the strandline community. So many people enjoy our coastlines and it would be such a shame to see any decline in their charm. Recording Non-Native species is so simple and many are easy to identify. Why not have a look along your local beaches, pontoons and piers for them. You might be the first to identify any in your local area! There are many nice and simple identification guides available for free and the Sealife Tracker app is easy to download, has great pictures and identification descriptions and also allows you to submit your finds. Species to look out for in Scotland include the brown seaweed Sargassum muticum that can be found lurking at low tide. The leathery sea squirt Styela clava and the Pacific Oyster Crassostrea gigas are easy to identify due to their unique appearance. Take photographs if you see any Non-Natives and don’t remove what you find as this can cause more damage. Look out for bioblitz’s and training days this summer and hopefully we can get to grips with the invaders on our shore.
By Susan Miller