Where are they now? Tracking the Mediterranean lionfish invasion via local dive centers

Elizabeth W. Phillips*, Alexander Kotrschal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Invasive species are globally on the rise due to human-induced environmental change and are often a source of harm to their new ecosystems. Tracking the spread of invaders is crucial to better manage invasive species, and citizen science is often used to collect sighting data. However, this can be unreliable due to the general public's limited expertise for accurate identification and a lack of clear absence data. Here, we introduce a refined method of citizen science by tracking the spread of the invasive lionfish (Pterois miles) in the Mediterranean Sea using dive centers' expertise on local marine wildlife. We contacted 1131 dive centers on the Mediterranean coast via email and received 216 responses reporting whether or not lionfish were present in their area and, if present, the year they were first sighted. Currently, lionfish sightings are observed in the eastern half of the Mediterranean, though the front is continuing to move west with the furthest sighting as far as Corfu, Greece (19.939423°E, 39.428017°N). In 2020, lionfish also expanded their invasive range north on the Turkish Aegean coast to Karaburun (26.520657°E, 38.637033°N), showing that the invasion is ongoing. We found that the invasive range is now exceeding previous invasion models, highlighting the need for additional research on lionfish biology to inform management efforts. Continuous monitoring of invasive fronts based on dive center reports and a better understanding of what makes lionfish so invasive is crucial to creating effective management strategies and mitigating their negative impact on native ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113354
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Volume298
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2021

Keywords

  • Citizen science
  • Lessepsian invasion
  • Lionfish
  • Mediterranean sea
  • Pterois miles

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