Green Harbors Project

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Water Quality/Marine Invasive Species

Project Lead: Chris McIntyre (M.S. 2012)

The Fouling Community of Boston Harbor: An Assessment of Marine Invasive Species, Water Quality and Biodiversity
Marine invasive species represent a major portion of the Boston Harbor fouling community, causing significant environmental and economic impacts. Characterized by tolerance to pollution and aggressive colonization, these invaders pose potential threats to native species through competition for resources and possibly predation.  Invasive species cause drastic alterations to ecosystems and communities and are considered by many biologists to be one of the most significant threats to local and global biodiversity.

Attempts to control biological invasions in the marine environment have been unsuccessful. Recent studies have linked increased invasibility to factors ranging from introduced artificial substrate, urban development, water pollution and depressed native biodiversity. My project supported the efforts of the Green Boston Harbor Project (GBHP) to monitor invasive species in Boston Harbor. The goal of the project was to expand the current understanding of marine invasive species tolerance to variations in water quality parameters and to improve efforts to prevent and control further introductions.

Four project sites were used to study variations in water quality and invasive species using settlement plates in an effort to demonstrate that water quality variations within a single commercial port will result in consistent differences in diversity and abundance of marine invasive macroinvertebrates with local fouling communities. Aluminum fouling plates were installed on floating docks at four selected study sites within Boston Harbor; each site displayed varying degrees of ecological impairment based on nutrient levels, bacteria counts, physical parameters including dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity and pH as well as anthropogenic disturbances including the total area of floating dock area (m2) within a 300 meter radius of the study site and the estimated number of vessels visiting the site per day. At each site, fouling plates deployed at 1 and 2 meters were used to assess larval recruitment rates every two weeks. Photographs were during site visits for assessment of percent coverage overtime. Biomass samples were taken at the end of study period in late September. Biodiversity of each site was calculated using data collected in each of three assessment methods.

Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA) was the statistical method used to analyze the data and further the understanding of species relationships to environmental factors. The results suggest there is a strong correlation among the presence of the invasive species studied with nutrients, turbidity and anthropogenic disturbances.