Tsunami spreads species

“Most of the world’s megacities are in the coastal zone and will continue to be so, greatly increasing the quantity of non-biodegradable material available to be swept from watersheds… Human-mediated amplification of marine debris provides new opportunities for species to surmount historic ocean barriers.” Researchers in the journal Science

Hundreds of new species have been carried across Pacific Ocean to the shores of America on floating debris created by the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, a new study shows.

The quake and subsequent waves pulled millions of man-made objects out to sea, ranging from pieces of plastic and polystyrene right up to boats, buoys and sections of floating dock.

And many species have been able to survive the 7000 kilometre passage across the Pacific, reproducing along the way.

Williams College researcher James Carlton and a team of researchers studied these floating ecosystems in a paper in the journal Science.

According to Dr Chris Smith of The Naked Scientists the researchers have documented nearly 300 species of fish and invertebrates, including worms, crustaceans and shellfish, arriving from Japan in a reproductively-fit state.

Durable man-made materials, and a slow rate of travel on wind and tide have provided these species a perfect opportunity to acclimatise en route. So although it is still too early to tell if these new arrivals could become invasive pests in the US, the survivors of this 6 year trans-Pacific voyage are likely to be “resilient and adaptable, which are common characteristics among invasive aliens”.


Tsunami spreads species
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