Raising the flag on marine alien fouling species
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Harbours are known introduction foci of marine alien species. They act as recipients of new introductions and as sources for regional spread. We report on subtidal surveys of fouling communities from 14 harbours along the coastline of South Africa that were used to identify predictors of high alien species numbers in support of prioritisation of monitoring actions by authorities. The harbours varied in nature from large, international shipping hubs to small, regional fishing harbours and recreational marinas. Fouling assemblages were assessed using visual and scrape sampling to ensure the detection of large, mobile and small inconspicuous species. In total, 29 alien species were recorded, 15 of which were detected outside of their previously known ranges. The number of species recorded per harbour varied from five to. Results revealed that high numbers of alien species were associated with the presence of yachts and low primary productivity. Harbours which had yachts and occurred in areas with mean Chl a minimum levels lower than 0.21 mg.m-3 had the highest number of alien species, while harbours without yachts that were larger than 0.1km2 supported the fewest alien species. These findings suggest that the presence of yachts can be used to identify harbours with high numbers of alien species, particularly in regions with low productivity. While the applicability of these findings to other regions remains to be tested, this work suggests that harbours that fall within this category could be prioritised for monitoring of marine alien species.