Molecular assessment of exotic species associated with maritime ports in North Iberia.

Shipping is the most frequent introduction pathway of exotic species and ports are considered to be gateways for aquatic invasions. Reasons are new arrivals from maritime traffic and disturbed environmental conditions that can promote the settlement of exotics. Molluscs fall in the most prevalent group of marine invasive species and can cause tremendous impact on aquatic ecosystems. Their identification is not always easy based on morphological traits; cryptic species makes difficulties to estimate the diversity of exotics. Although the threat of marine aliens is well recognized, the impact of maritime transport on marine diversity has not been assessed in the Northern Iberia. In this study the introduction of exotic species was investigated in differently disturbed areas associated to ports in the Cantabrian Sea. Molecular techniques were employed to identify exotic mollusc species and trace their introduction pathways. Results confirmed that ports located in estuaries are “hot-spots” of exotic species. Their frequency is associated with a combination of habitat disturbance and maritime traffic. Three exotic bivalves were reported for the first time in the studied area and two were cryptic species. The molecular assessment carried out in this study illustrates how DNA analysis can help in rapid port biosecurity monitoring surveys.

DOI: 10.1080/17451000.2015.1112016

ISCED Categories

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0511 - Biology", "0521 - Ecology