Biological Invasions

, Volume 13, Issue 9, pp 1991–2008 | Cite as

Revealing the scale of marine bioinvasions in developing regions: a South African re-assessment

  • A. Mead
  • J. T. Carlton
  • C. L. Griffiths
  • M. Rius
Original Paper


As recently as 2009 the number of introductions recorded for South Africa comprised 22 marine and estuarine species. This review aims to reassess the diversity and scale of introduced marine and estuarine species in the region. Accurate taxonomic and systematic work, broad review of historical records and new sampling surveys across selected marine habitats conducted by a team of local and international experts has effectively revealed the presence of previously misidentified, overlooked, or new introductions. A total of 86 introduced and 39 cryptogenic species are recognized, increasing known numbers four and twofold respectively within 1 year, although the current assessment is far from fully comprehensive. Additional species were revealed within the historic literature (76%), from surveys conducted post-2005 (11%) and following taxonomic resolution (13%). Temporal analyses confirmed discovery rates were increasing over time. Ship fouling and ballast water were the dominant vector pathways, accounting for 48 and 38% respectively. Spatial analyses revealed patterns of bioinvasion to be significantly higher on the west coast compared to the other coastal regions. Overall, 53% of introductions were concentrated within harbour areas with only 4 open-coast invaders detected at present. Introduced species found in the cool and warm-temperate provinces of the west and south coast mainly originated from the northern hemisphere (65%). In contrast, introductions located in the sub-tropical and tropical provinces of the east coast mainly originated from the southern hemisphere (18%), with the remaining 17% of introduced species being of unknown origin. The research approach described has proven pivotal, contributing massively toward revealing the true scale and patterns of bioinvasion for a developing region within a relatively short period of time.


Ballast Bioinvasions Cryptogenic Fouling Vectors South Africa 



We are grateful to a large number of colleagues (cited in Mead et al. 2011) who generously provided unpublished records, museum data, systematic expertise, identified specimens or gave valuable advice. This research was conducted with support from History of the Near-shore (HNS) and the South African Environmental Observation Node (SAEON) to AM, and a grant from the Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology to CLG, MR and JTC. MR was supported by the ‘Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrolló from the Spanish ‘Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores y de Cooperación’.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Mead
    • 1
  • J. T. Carlton
    • 2
  • C. L. Griffiths
    • 1
  • M. Rius
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of ZoologyUniversity of Cape TownRondebosch, Cape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Maritime Studies ProgramWilliams College-Mystic SeaportMysticUSA
  3. 3.Department of Evolution and EcologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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