Invasive Seaweed Species Helping NC's Coastal Habitats

Jul 18, 2017

Eradicating invasive plants and species may not always be the best policy. A new study shows a non-native species of seaweed is helping coastal habitats in North Carolina.

The study by Duke University and UNC Wilmington researchers found the Japanese seaweed filled a gap left by the disappearance of native species. It also provides ecosystem services, like storm protection and food production.

“When you think about it, it's better to have some non-native habitat then no habitat at all,” said UNC Wilmington’s Aaron Ramus, the study's lead researcher. "We're not trying to say that invasive species are good, more importantly we're saying that maybe not all invasive species are bad."

The non-native seaweed helps erosion control and flood protection, boosts food production and provides shelter for shrimp, crab and fish.

“Conservation practitioners are investing millions of dollars to eradicate invasive species, but what if some of those invasive species are actually benefiting native species and ecosystem services?” said Brian Silliman, a professor at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, in a statement. “Our experimental study shows for the first time that this can be the case.”

It's believed the non-native seaweed may have come to the area with the export of an oyster species from Japan.

The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.