Major funding from: North Pacific Research Board
A partnership between UAA’s Alaska Center for Conservation Science, the Aleutian and Bering Sea Islands LCC, Alaska Sea Grant, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska Maritime Refuge.
Download our final report and associated appendices here
Invasive Species in the Bering Sea
The term “invasive species” means different things to different people. For ecologists, a species is “invasive” if it establishes and spreads rapidly to new areas1,2. Often, the word “invasive” refers to non-native species that negatively affect the region to which they are introduced, and that have usually been introduced by humans (whether intentionally or accidentally). Invasive species can have strong impacts on native species, habitats, and natural resources, and are considered to be one of the leading threats to biodiversity worldwide3.
We investigated the potential risk of non-native species to the Bering Sea through a ranking system developed to assess species’ traits, environmental suitability, and shipping traffic. We created habitat models relating species’ physiological tolerances gathered from literature to current and future climate scenarios to map areas of current and future concern. Last, we analysed shipping traffic from commercial and fishing vessels to identify ports of entry for invasive species.
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. Collectively, this project begins to answer the following questions:
- Which non-native species pose the biggest threat to the Bering Sea?
- Can these species survive, grow, and reproduce here?
- How might climate change affect their potential to survive and establish?
- Which Bering Sea ports are most at risk of invasion?
Click on the links below to explore our ranking system, habitat models and shipping traffic analysis
This project was made possible through funding from The North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) and the Aleutian and Bering Sea Islands LCC (ABSI LCC) provided funding this project. We would like to thank our research partners, Tony Fishbach at USGS and Jordan Watson at NOAA. In addition, we would like to thank Tracey Gotthardt who was instrumental in the development of this project, and Casey Greenstein, Lindsey Flagstad, Catie Bursche, Jaime Weltfelt, and Curtis Whisman contributed to developing the ranking system and the species status reports. Thank you to Jennifer Dijkstra, Nora Foster, Kelly Krueger, Linda Shaw, Christina Simkanin, and Peter Westley for the time and energy they put into the expert review process. Thanks to Jen Karnak of Marine Exchange of Alaska, who assisted with vessel identification, and to Rob Bochenek and Dr. William Koeppen of Axiom Data Science for assistance in extracting the ROMS data. Additional thanks goes to Matt Carlson and Paul Schuette from the Alaska Center for Conservation Science for providing valuable feedback on the final report.
Interested in learning more? The Kachemak Bay Research Reserve is doing some great work on marine invasive species, including outreach activities and monitoring. Click here to see what they’re working on.