Invasive Species Compendium

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Abstract

Marine biofouling organisms on beached, buoyant and benthic plastic debris in the Catalan Sea.

Abstract

Plastic debris provides long-lasting substrates for benthic organisms, thus acting as a potential vector for their dispersion. Its interaction with these colonizers is, however, still poorly known. This study examines fouling communities on beached, buoyant and benthic plastic debris in the Catalan Sea (NW Mediterranean), and characterizes the plastic type. We found 14 specimens belonging to two phyla (Annelida and Foraminifera) on microplastics, and more than 400 specimens belonging to 26 species in 10 phyla (Annelida, Arthropoda, Brachiopoda, Bryozoa, Chordata, Cnidaria, Echinodermata, Mollusca, Porifera and Sipuncula) on macroplastics. With 15 species, bryozoans are the most diverse group on plastics. We also report 17 egg cases of the catshark Scyliorhinus sp., and highlight the implications for their dispersal. Our results suggest that plastic polymers may be relevant for distinct fouling communities, likely due to their chemical structure and/or surface properties. Our study provides evidence that biofouling may play a role in the sinking of plastic debris, as the most abundant fouled plastics had lower densities than seawater, and all bryozoan species were characteristic of shallower depths than those sampled. More studies at low taxonomic level are needed in order to detect new species introduction and potential invasive species associated with plastic debris.