Invasion of Caulerpa species
The genus Caulerpa (Chlorophyta) has many endemic species in Western Australia and while most of them passively coexist with other local algae, some have been introduced to other parts of the world where they have become invasive pests that typically cause serious declines in local biodiversity. Caulerpa species have unique traits that increases their potential invasiveness; both clonal and sexual reproduction and dispersal, an ability to occupy both hard and soft substratum, fast horizontal growth, high ability to proliferate from small fragments, a fast wound recovery and an ability to take up nutrients from both water and sediments. Still, little is known about what combination of environmental factors facilitate invasion and cause high impacts on native communities. It has been suggested that invasion success and impacts are related to anthropogenic stressors, particularly eutrophication and physical disturbances (like trawling, cray pots, storms). This project tests how these stressors affect the distribution and performance of invasive and non-invasive representatives of the genus.