Invasive tunicates fouling mussel lines

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Title Invasive tunicates fouling mussel lines: evidence of their impact on native tunicates and other epifaunal invertebrates
Author(s) V. Lutz-Collins, A. Ramsay, P. A. Quijón, J. Davidson
Journal Aquatic Invasions
Date 2009
Volume 4
Issue 1
Start page 213
End page 220
Abstract Blue mussel Mytilus edulis aquaculture lines and associated gear provide habitat for sessile and mobile epifaunal fouling organisms. Due to food limitations and substrate space, these species are likely to interact among themselves and with mussels. In some areas of Prince Edward Island and elsewhere in Atlantic Canada, invasive sea squirts such as the vase tunicate, Ciona intestinalis, colonize mussel socks and rapidly become the dominant species in terms of abundance and biomass. A relevant question for these systems is which native epifauna are most affected by the growth of these invasive tunicates. Our study documents local variations in the abundance of vase tunicates and relates this information to the abundance patterns of three groups of native epifauna with distinctive levels of mobility: sessile tunicates of the genus Molgula, sedentary polychaetes and errant polychaetes. Following recruitment, large abundances of vase tunicates created a significant among-site variation pattern that was consistent over time irrespective of the season when the mussel socks were deployed. In contrast, native tunicates of the genus Molgula colonized the mussel socks in lower numbers and in a spatial pattern opposite to that of invasive tunicates. With the exception of one sampling period, sedentary polychaete colonization also displayed a negative relationship with invasive tunicates. Errant polychaetes displayed erratic patterns that were apparently unrelated to the other species studied. Overall, these results suggest that invasive tunicates have negative effects on many epifaunal species, particularly those that are sessile or have limited mobility.

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