Marine alien species of South Africa - status and impacts

16 April 2007

The current status of marine alien species along the South African coast is reviewed and the ecological and economic impacts of these invasions are discussed. In all, 10 confirmed extant alien and 22 cryptogenic species are recorded from the region. All 10 alien species support well-established populations and the majority of these remain restricted in distribution to sheltered bays, estuaries and harbours. Only one species, the Mediterranean mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis, has spread extensively along the coast and caused significant ecological impacts. These include the competitive displacement of indigenous species and a dramatic increase in intertidal mussel biomass. These changes have also increased available habitat for many infaunal species and resulted in enhanced food supply for intertidal predators. Considerable economic benefits have also resulted from this invasion because M. galloprovincialis forms the basis of the South African mussel culture industry.