Faria, J., Prestes, A.C.L., Moreu, I., Cacabelos, E. & Martins, G.M. (2022) Dramatic changes in the structure of shallow-water marine benthic communities following the invasion by Rugulopteryx okamurae (Dictyotales, Ochrophyta) in Azores (NE Atlantic).Marine Pollution Bulletin, 175, 113358. DOI:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2022.113358 (IF2020 5,553; Q1 Environmental Sciences)
Biological invasions are considered one of the most important drivers of biodiversity loss. Here we use a before-after-control-impact (BACI) design to investigate the impact of Rugulopteryx okamurae on the structure of shallow-water marine benthic communities in São Miguel island, Azores. After its first appearance in 2019, R. okamurae has rapidly invaded much of the southern coast of the island, where it became the dominant algae. This was followed by significant changes in the structure of shallow-water marine benthic communities, with substantial losses of natural variability and species richness. Compared to before, there has been dramatic reductions in the abundances of articulated coralline algae, corticated algae and corticated foliose algae in invaded locations. These results highlight its highly invasive character, not seen with other, more well-known, invasive species. It remains to be investigated if its impacts persist throughout time and to quantify the functional consequences of such dramatic changes.