Impact of seawater temperature on growth and recruitment of invasive fouling species at the global scale.
Epibenthic fouling communities are dominated by invasive species that are globally distributed and can have substantial ecological and economic impacts in coastal habitats. Little is known about inter-specific differences in life history strategies that cosmopolitan invasive species employ to acquire space and succeed in invaded habitats. The goal of this study was to examine the impact of seawater temperature on recruitment and growth of several cosmopolitan fouling species including the tunicates Botrylloides violaceus, Botryllus schlosseri and Diplosoma listerianum, as well as the bryozoans Bugula neritina and Watersipora subtorquata. To do this, the iBARGE (Invasive Bryozoan and Ascidian Recruitment and Growth Experiment) program was developed, utilizing a global network of collaborators to examine patterns over a broad geographic scale and a wide range of naturally varying seawater temperatures. This project produced a data set of thousands of photographs from 18 marinas in five countries in summer 2014 and 2015, allowing for recruitment and growth to be tabulated at a variety of temperatures. Thermal growth curves were established for five invasive species, and growth was compared among temperatures across sites, revealing a significant thermal effect. Recruitment was linked to temperature, with generally higher recruitment at warmer seawater temperatures and the highest peak recruitment values for the bryozoan Bugula neritina. Temperature also changed the relative importance of growth and recruitment for several species. These results paint a complex picture of the interactions among invasive fouling species as they relate to seawater temperature.