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Alien invaders on our coasts

Volunteers are needed to search for marine non-native species in the southwest of the UK.

They’re here to stay… but where exactly are they?

Our Capturing our Coast partners at the Marine Biological Association need your help to look for marine invasive species in support of a national Invasive Species Week from 23rd to 29th March.

For centuries, marine species have moved around the globe either by hitching a ride on the hulls of ships, as stowaways in ballast water, or by being deliberately introduced for commercial purposes. Some can have a positive effect and become a new food source for native species. Others thrive a bit too well and may be harmful to our native diversity by outcompeting them or by introducing disease; these are called invasive species.

Volunteers are being asking to help search for a number of marine invasive species as part of a survey called Marine Invaders. Once data has been collected, volunteer citizen scientists then upload their findings online to help further scientific knowledge on the whereabouts of some colourful and charismatic characters, such as the Pacific Oyster, Orange-striped Anemone, Chinese Mitten Crab and Japanese Wireweed.
The Marine Invaders project is part of our wider conservation project Capturing Our Coast funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is a partnership led by Newcastle University including Earthwatch Europe, Portsmouth, Bangor & Hull Universities, Marine Conservation Society, Marine Biological Association and Scottish Association of Marine Sciences.

Debbie Winton, Capturing our Coast Project Manager for Earthwatch Europe, said "Marine Invaders is not just for adults, it's a great opportunity to get your kids outdoors this Easter holiday to do something fun and educational on the beach. It’s really easy to understand and do, and the data is of real value for our understanding of how invasive species are affecting the UK’s unique and vulnerable shores. You might be surprised at what you find!”

Marine Invaders searches take just 10 minutes each and are an ideal way to take part in ‘hands-on’ science whilst exploring your local shore – all you have to do is choose a species to look for (or more if you fancy!), then download the species identification guides, recording sheets and survey instructions and get out searching; don’t forget - both the presence and absence of species are just as important to record and upload…have fun!

Hannah Wilson, Capturing Our Coast Field Assistant at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, said “These searches are so important for us to learn whether these species are either present or absent from sites around the UK, as it can then help future studies to analyse the effects that non-native species might be having on communities of marine plants and animals and how they might be distributing around the British Isles.”

“We initially launched the Marine Invaders surveys in September 2017, kindly helped by the Marine Biological Association’s Jack Sewell and Bishop Group to design our species identification cards and create an activity that all the family can join in on. We will be running searches in Devon and Cornwall for ‘Invasive Species Week’, although anyone is welcome to do a timed search on their local shore whenever and wherever they like and can download all the resources they need from our website.

By going out for a walk on any rocky shore, sandy beach or artificial shore (such as harbours), members of the public can add many more eyes to this project and help us map the distribution of marine invasive species around the UK’s coastline.”

Find out more about the Capturing our Coast Invasive Species Week events here.

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