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Invasive Species Research

International researchers do interdisciplinary research to gain more precise knowledge of the biology of the invasive alga Rugulopteryx okamurae and the environmental factors that explain its successful colonisation on the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea.

Since around 2015, abundant upwelling of the alga Rugulopteryx okamurae, an alga of Asian origin, has been observed on the coast of the Strait of Gibraltar. The proliferation of this seaweed has been rapid, affecting not only coastal areas but also at depth, with samples of this seaweed in Almería and Huelva (Spain), in the Algarve (Portugal), in Marseilles (France), as well as in the Azores Islands (Portugal).

The first reference of this species in Europe was in the Thau Lagoon in 2002, when it arrived with the aquaculture of Japanese oysters, but it remained confined there. R. Okamurae was included in the list of invasive species in Spain and Europe in December 2020 and the risk study in the same year concluded that the risk of expansion could cover practically the entire Mediterranean.

It is therefore urgent to carry out research to find out more about the biological strengths and weaknesses of this species and to pass on the scientific conclusions to managers in order to act quickly, as the impact on marine ecosystems and the economy (fishing and tourism sector) is only getting worse.

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