Marine Biology

, 165:31 | Cite as

Non-native species colonization of highly diverse, wave swept outer coast habitats in Central California

  • Chela J. Zabin
  • Michelle Marraffini
  • Steve I. Lonhart
  • Linda McCann
  • Lina Ceballos
  • Chad King
  • James Watanabe
  • John S. Pearse
  • Gregory M. Ruiz
Original paper


More non-native species (NNS) are reported from harbors, estuaries and protected embayments than in wave-exposed, open-coast habitats. In California (USA), hundreds of NNS have become established in international ports, and dozens are known from smaller estuaries. In contrast, only 22 NNS are reported from the state’s 1350 km of open coast. As a result, the perception that open-coast habitats are not vulnerable to invasions has persisted. Management and monitoring focuses on ports and estuaries; the last major monitoring effort on the open coast occurred in 2004. Much of the species-rich Central California coast is now part of a network of marine protected areas (MPAs). We surveyed 12 wave-swept rocky intertidal and eight subtidal sites (from 37°53′40N 122°42′30W to 36°31′16N 121°56′22W) for NNS. At least one NNS was detected at half of the sites surveyed, but most were not widespread or abundant. One exception, a bryozoan in the Watersipora spp. complex, known primarily from ports and estuaries, was found at multiple sites, and was abundant at some. Another non-native, the alga Caulacanthus ustulatus, was abundant at a single site. MPAs were just as likely as sites outside of MPAs to have NNS. For subtidal sites, proximity to a harbor was correlated with the abundance of non-natives. Our findings suggest that our study area is still relatively uninvaded, but the success of Watersipora within some of these highly diverse rocky shore sites underscores the potential vulnerability of high-value open-coast systems to invasions.



This research was funded in part under contract to GMR by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Invasive Species Program, Agreement number P1475001. We thank James T. Carlton and Kathy Ann Miller for assistance in developing our target species list. Kathy Ann Miller provided taxonomic expertise for the algae and David Elvin for sponges. Carrie Craig, Blu Forman, Brandy Gale, Vanesa Guerra, Josie Iselin, Carlianne Johnson, Melinda Wheelock, Heather Fulton-Bennett, and Chris Scianni assisted with field surveys; Daniel M. Cox and Blu Forman assisted with graphics. We thank numerous students from Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station for collecting data and Freya Sommer for assisting with the logistics of dive operations there. We also thank the reviewers for suggestions that greatly improved the manuscript, and Andrew L. Chang, Laura Jurgens and Patrick Alderich for advice on statistics.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Animal ethics

All animals and plants have been sampled according to state and federal guidelines, and all required research permits and permissions were obtained.

Supplementary material

227_2018_3284_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (171 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 170 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Smithsonian Environmental Research CenterTiburonUSA
  2. 2.Monterey Bay National Marine SanctuaryNational Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationSanta CruzUSA
  3. 3.Hopkins Marine StationStanford UniversityPacific GroveUSA
  4. 4.Joseph M. Long Marine LaboratoryUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA

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