Invasive species are a major issue globally, especially as human transportation allows for the movement of a variety of species over thousands of miles, accidentally and purposely. Invasive species are so far-reaching that they are becoming a significant problem in Antarctica, land which sees few visitors compared to other places on the globe. Another location which can have problems with invasive species is the ocean.
Despite marine species all sharing the characteristic of the oceans of the world being their home, individual ecosystems vary. So when a new species is introduced to an ecosystem it can have dire consequences for species native to the system, with some species being out-competed or even consumed to extinction in their individual ecosystems. Such is the potential issue discussed in a recent report published regarding deep-sea species being transferred across the ocean.
Published in the journal Conservation Biology, scientists described the inherent dangers in deep-sea diving and transferring non-native species to a region of the ocean. This very scenario accidentally occurred to the scientists who subsequently reported the situation in the journal while studying hydrothermal vents. Scientists ended up inadvertently transferring limpets from near the vent region, 2.7 kilometers below the surface on the Gorda Ridge, to a location 600 kilometers away, the Juan De Fuca Ridge.
A scientist involved in the expedition and report, Janet Voight, stated: “We were a biology cruise and so we should have been the most sensitive to this, but there are geology-focuses cruises out there who might not even be aware of this potential. […] By publishing this- although it’s painful to admit errors- we want to make the point that this is something that needs to be taken seriously.”
At first the scientists believed they had found a new species but further testing revealed the limpets must have hitchhiked on their submersible vehicle. Now the scientists are using the situation as a caution to others to be careful when dealing with delicate ecosystems. The scientists point to the potential devastation such a simple act could have, including introducing disease to a region.