They’re lovingly called ‘sea squirts’, but certain marine soft-bodied animals, or tunicates, could cause a giant-sized problem in cold water areas like the Gulf of Maine. New research from the University of New Hampshire shows that with a water temperature increase of just two degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) predicted in the coming years, the invasive tunicate species Botrylloides violaceus will be able to double their reproduction because warmer water allows them a longer growing season. This seemingly modest temperature increase could cause the sea squirts to take up more space on natural and artificial places where organisms grow (like the ocean floor or fishing lines), therefore crowding out native species and potentially creating more problems for the aquaculture and fishing industries who work along the northern New England coast. Click on the following sentence to access the full story.
“In the past decade, we’ve seen their populations spread more northeastward to places like Eastport, Maine where there are now much larger colonies than before and these colonies have also spread to natural substrates, like rocks and seaweed,” said Jennifer Dijkstra, a research assistant professor in the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering at UNH’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping and lead author on this research.