Bering Sea Marine Invasives

Photo of European Green Crab

Invasive species are one of the leading global conservation concerns, which can have strong, negative impacts on ecosystems, vulnerable species, and valuable natural resources. Arctic regions have experienced a relatively low number of biological introductions to date. Their geographical remoteness, cold waters, and presence of sea ice present challenging conditions for both non-native organisms and the vessels that transport them, presumably leading to low rates of introduction and establishment. However, observed increases in water temperatures reductions in sea ice, and projected increases in shipping traffic are expected to render arctic marine regions more susceptible to the arrival and colonization of marine invasives. Risk assessments for these Arctic regions are important to inform management and monitoring priorities by determining which species pose the greatest risk. To this end, we developed a ranking system for non-native marine species and used this system to assess the risk of non-native species to the Bering Sea.

Using species’ published physiological tolerances, we mapped habitat suitability under current and future climate scenarios to identify geographic areas of current and future concern. In addition, we described shipping traffic from commercial and fishing vessels to identify ports of entry for non-native species. Collectively, these analyses identify which marine species have the greatest risk for invasion, where in the Bering Sea invasion risk and species establishment is greatest, and which ports are most likely to serve as an entry point for marine invasives into Alaska’s Bering Sea.

At present, there are relatively few non-native species in the Bering Sea. However, it is predicted that Arctic regions – including the Bering Sea – will become more susceptible to invasions because of changes in climate and shipping traffic4,5. Given the importance of the Bering Sea to Alaskans, and the current lack of knowledge, evaluating the potential threat of non-native species in the region is needed to help inform management, monitoring, and research priorities.

Bering Sea Marine Invasives Final Report

A final report assessing the risk of non-native marine
species in the Bering Sea