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The recent invasion of the red alga Heterosiphonia japonica in the western North Atlantic Ocean has provided a unique opportunity to study invasion dynamics across a biogeographical barrier. Native to the western North Pacific Ocean, initial collections in 2007 and 2009 restricted the western North Atlantic range of this invader to Rhode Island, USA. However, through subtidal community surveys, we document the presence of Heterosiphonia in coastal waters from Maine to New York, USA, a distance of more than 700 km. This geographical distribution spans a well-known biogeographical barrier at Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Despite significant differences in subtidal community structure north and south of Cape Cod, Heterosiphonia was found at all but two sites surveyed in both biogeographic provinces, suggesting that this invader is capable of rapid expansion over broad geographic ranges. Across all sites surveyed, Heterosiphonia comprised 14% of the subtidal benthic community. However, average abundances of nearly 80% were found at some locations. As a drifting macrophyte, Heterosiphonia was found as intertidal wrack in abundances of up to 65% of the biomass washed up along beaches surveyed. Our surveys suggest that the high abundance of Heterosiphonia has already led to marked changes in subtidal community structure; we found significantly lower species richness in recipient communities with higher Heterosiphona abundances. Based on temperature and salinity tolerances of the European populations, we believe Heterosiphonia has the potential to invade and alter subtidal communities from Florida to Newfoundland in the western North Atlantic.

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