Spread and Community Effects of the Habitat-Creating Invasive, Ficopomatus enigmaticus

EPA Grant Number: FP916311
Title: Spread and Community Effects of the Habitat-Creating Invasive, Ficopomatus enigmaticus
Investigators: Heiman, Kimberly W.
Institution: Stanford University
EPA Project Officer: Michaud, Jayne
Project Period: January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2006
Project Amount: $107,946
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Aquatic Ecosystems , Fellowship - Aquatic Ecology and Ecosystems


This research examines whether habitat-creating invasive species, such as the reef building tubeworm Ficopomatus enigmaticus, facilitate further invasions or enhance invasion impacts by providing novel hard substrate resources for other invasive species. This research also examines the role of anthropogenic disturbance through the addition of structures such as harbors, pilings, and bridges in the spread of habitat-creating invasive species throughout Elkhorn Slough, CA.


Biological invasions from shipping, aquaculture, and fisheries are a major threat to marine biodiversity and to the sustainability of human activities in estuaries and oceans. Habitat-creating invasive species, such as the reef-building tubeworm F. enigmaticus, may enhance the success of other fouling and reef-associated invasive species, especially when they invade marine systems where hard substrate is limited. This research will map the distribution of fouling invasive species, including F. enigmaticus, within Elkhorn Slough, CA, through repeated surveys of the intertidal zone. Redundancy analysis on habitat characteristics, such as hard substrate availability, and water quality variables will be used to explain observed patterns of invasive distributions. The presence of anthropogenic hard substrates may influence the distribution of fouling invasive species by increasing the abundance of limited hard substrate resources. To test if invasive species can spread beyond their observed range when hard substrates are added to the system, a recruitment experiment will be conducted. Recruitment substrates will be added to 10 sites in Elkhorn Slough without hard substrate. Recruitment substrates will be monitored monthly, producing a time series of recruitment and survivorship of fouling species under varying environmental conditions. Finally, this study will evaluate the effect of F. enigmaticus reefs on the native and invasive animals, through a removal experiment. Multivariate analysis, ordination, and ANOVA will be used to assess the significance of reef and mudflat community changes resulting from the removal of invasive reefs.

The presence of hard substrates will partially explain the observed patterns of surveyed fouling invasive species in Elkhorn Slough. Invasive species can use experimental hard substrates (recruitment substrates) to expand their range into areas where they were not previously observed. The formation of invasive reefs by F. enigmaticus, results in measurable changes in the community of native and invasive animals that lives in the mudflats near the reefs.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, invasive species, nonindigenous, introduced species, estuary, Ficopomatus enigmaticus, Elkhorn Slough, hard substrate, water quality, anthropogenic disturbance, California, CA,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, State, Aquatic Ecosystem, Aquatic Ecosystems, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Biology, reef building tubeworms, species interaction, aquaculture, ecosystem monitoring, biotic complexity, bidoveristy, invasive species

Relevant Websites:

2004 STAR Graduate Fellowship Conference Poster (PDF, 1p., 159KB, about PDF)

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2004
  • 2005
  • Final