Marine Biology

, Volume 162, Issue 12, pp 2449–2470 | Cite as

Ascidians as models for studying invasion success

  • Aibin ZhanEmail author
  • Elizabeta Briski
  • Dan G. Bock
  • Sara Ghabooli
  • Hugh J. MacIsaac
Invasive Species - Review
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Invasive Species


During the past three decades, coastal marine waters have become among the most invaded habitats globally. Ascidians are among the most notorious invaders in these ecosystems. Owing to their rapid spread, frequent population outbreaks, and associated negative ecological and economic impacts, invasive ascidians have become a global problem. Thus, the study of ascidian invasions has become a prominent area of invasion biology. Here, we review current knowledge and conclude that ascidians are good models for studying invasion success in the marine realm. Firstly, we summarize the reconstruction of invasion pathways or colonization histories and associated negative impacts of invasive ascidians, and address the urgent need to clarify ambiguous taxonomy of ascidians. Secondly, we discuss factors that underlie or facilitate invasion success of ascidians, including vectors of introduction and spread, environmental changes, biological traits, and possible genetic issues. Finally, we summarize current science-based policies and management solutions that are in place to prevent and control spread of invasive ascidians. We conclude by highlighting key research questions that remain to be answered, and propose future research to investigate mechanisms of invasion success in the marine realm using ascidians as model systems.


Biological Invasion Ballast Water Invasion Success International Maritime Organization Invasion History 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Great thanks to two reviewers and the subject editor who provided valuable and constructive comments on the early versions of this manuscript. This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (31272665) and 100 Talents Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences to A.Z., by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Vanier CGS and a Killam Doctoral Fellowship to D.G.B., and by an NSERC Discovery grant, the NSERC Canadian Aquatic Invasive Species Network (CAISN), and Canada Research Chair to H.J.M.

Supplementary material

227_2015_2734_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (42 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 42 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aibin Zhan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Elizabeta Briski
    • 2
  • Dan G. Bock
    • 3
  • Sara Ghabooli
    • 4
  • Hugh J. MacIsaac
    • 4
  1. 1.Research Center for Eco-Environmental SciencesChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Experimental EcologyHelmholtz Centre for Ocean ResearchKielGermany
  3. 3.Department of Botany, Biodiversity Research CentreUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  4. 4.Great Lakes Institute for Environmental ResearchUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada

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