Non-native marine species in north-west Europe: Developing an approach to assess future spread using regional downscaled climate projections

Bryony Townhill, John Pinnegar, Jonathan Tinker, Miranda Jones, Stephen Simpson, Paul Stebbing, Stephen Dye

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15 Citations (Scopus)
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1. Climate change can affect the survival, colonization and establishment of non-native species. Many non-native species common in Europe are spreading northwards as seawater temperatures increase. The similarity of climatic conditions between source and recipient areas is assumed to influence the establishment of such species, however, in a changing climate those conditions are difficult to predict. 2. A risk assessment methodology has been applied to identify non-native species with proven invasive qualities that have not yet arrived in north-west Europe, but which could become problematic in the future. Those species with the highest potential to become established or be problematic have been taken forward, as well as some that may be economically beneficial, for species distribution modelling to determine future potential habitat distributions under projected climate change. 3. In the past, species distribution models have usually made use of low resolution global environmental datasets. Here, to increase the local resolution of the distribution models, downscaled shelf seas climate change model outputs for north-west Europe were nested within global outputs. In this way the distribution model could be trained using the global species presence data including the species' native locations, and then projected using more comprehensive shelf seas data to understand habitat suitability in a potential recipient area. 4. Distribution modelling found that habitat suitability will generally increase further north for those species with the highest potential to become established or problematic. Most of these are known to be species with potentially serious consequences for conservation. With caution, a small number of species may present an opportunity for the fishing industry or aquaculture. The ability to provide potential future distributions could be valuable in prioritizing species for monitoring or eradication programmes, increasing the chances of identifying problem species early. This is particularly important for vulnerable infrastructure or protected or threatened ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1035–1050
Number of pages16
JournalAquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
Issue number5
Early online date7 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • Alien species
  • Dispersal
  • Invasive
  • Invertebrate
  • Ocean
  • Subtidal

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