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These surveys were undertaken only in certain habitats around two of the larger islands, so the actual number of invasive species is likely to be much greater. “From our knowledge of similar studies, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number was twice [as many],” says team member Jim Carlton of Williams College in Massachusetts.
The impact of these alien species on the islands’ ecosystems is not yet known. But it is likely to be negative judging from experiences elsewhere, and could threaten the islands’ hundr of endemic marine species. “What we know is a number of these [invasive] species clearly have had impacts elsewhere in the world,” says Carlton.
Invasions in other places suggest that even more harmful species could soon be headed for the waters of the Galapagos, the team warns, including soft corals that could grow rapidly over local coral, and the prospect of venomous lionfish crossing from the Caribbean through the Panama Canal.
Journal reference: Aquatic Invasions, DOI: 10.3391/ai.2019.14.1.01
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