The present study reports the recent occurrence and expansion of Rugulopteryx okamurae in the Azores archipelago (NE Atlantic). Morphological and molecular characters confirmed the species identification. Quick surveys around the island of São Miguel showed that it has successfully colonized the island and is quickly expanding. In some locations, R. okamurae is currently the dominant organism smothering all other benthic biota and posing a serious threat to the benthic ecosystems across the region. The species first record dates from 2019 near the main harbour of the island, suggesting that its introduction was driven by human-assisted transport, via boat ballast waters or adhered to ship hulls and likely originating from the Mediterranean populations that have been proliferating in recent years across the Strait of Gibraltar.
Funding source: FCT Fundao para a Cincia e Tecnologia
Award Identifier / Grant number: UID/BIA/00329/20152019 and UID/BIA/00329/2020
About the authors
João Faria holds a PhD in biology from the University of Lisbon and has been accumulating considerable knowledge on coastal habitats. He has proven to be skillful in applying experimental ecology designs and molecular and genetic tools to better understand how biological diversity is generated. His main research interests lie in the field of marine conservation and resilience of marine organisms to natural and/or anthropogenic-derived disturbances (i.e. biological invasions, fisheries, ocean warming and ocean acidification).
Afonso C.L. Prestes is a PhD student of biology of the 3CBIO in the University of the Azores, studying the impact of invasive algae in the Azorean algal community. He has a research grant in the MIMAR + project for monitoring, control and mitigation of proliferations of marine organisms associated with human disturbances and climate change in the Macaronesian Region. He has participated in several research projects involving for instance the implementation of the European Water Framework in the Azores archipelago.
Gustavo M. Martins is currently head of the LAB-Algae lab at AQUAZOR where he coordinates the experimental laboratory for cultivation of marine macroalgae at off-shore structures. He was a post-doctoral researcher between 2010 and 2018. He has broad research interests that include the community ecology of intertidal rocky shores, the population and community level effects of harvesting, the importance of biodiversity for ecosystem processes, the impact of man-made structures on coastal ecosystems and the effects of climate change on species interactions.
Ana I. Neto passed away in May 2021. She was a professor at the University of Azores and since 1988 investigated marine botany and coastal ecology, using macroalgae as model organisms and the Azorean littoral communities as model systems. She was the lead scientist of the Island Aquatic Ecology SubGroup of the Azorean Biodiversity Group, and she coordinated the Herbarium AZB Ruy Telles Palhinha of DB/UAc.
Eva Cacabelos is a post-doctoral researcher and has extensive experience in the analysis of factors affecting littoral communities. She has participated in projects investigating the effects of invasions, climate change or anthropogenic perturbations in benthic communities, as well as related to valorization of marine resources. She is well acquainted with the methods of investigating effects of non-indigenous species in littoral systems.
We thank the editor and reviewers for their helpful comments on the manuscript. In loving memory of Ana Neto.
Author contribution: The authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.
Research funding: Funding was provided by National Funds through FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, within the projects UID/BIA/00329/2015–2019 and UID/BIA/00329/2020–2023. ACLP was supported by a PhD grant awarded by FRCT- Fundo Regional da Ciência e Tecnologia (M3.1.a/F/083/2015).
Conflict of interest statement: The author declare no conflicts of interest regarding this article.
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The online version of this article offers supplementary material (https://doi.org/10.1515/bot-2021-0060).
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