Understanding Ecological Relationships to Improve Biofouling Management Practices in the Marine Environment
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Ocean Engineering and Marine Sciences
Kelli Z. Hunsucker
Robert van Woesik
Biofouling, the growth of benthic invertebrates on anthropogenic surfaces, impacts many industries and is a major vector of non-native species worldwide. Understanding the ecological relationships between biofouling organisms and their environment is necessary to assist management practices. This study investigates the biofouling communities at Port Canaveral, Florida, in order to potentially refine biofouling mitigation practices. Recruitment panels were used to document the temporal changes in community composition, biofouling pressure, recruitment, and growth rates. These factors were also used to assess relationships with temperature and salinity. A second component of this work provided documentation on the variation in non-native species abundance based on location within the port, time of year, and surface orientation. Community composition and dominant organism differed seasonally and showed some interannual variation. A notable observation was the disappearance of colonial tunicates during the summer of 2018, the typical seasonal dominant. Biofouling pressure was typically highest in late summer to early fall when temperatures were highest. Recruitment was variable throughout the study, which is typical for marine invertebrates. Relationships with temperature and salinity were strongest for biomass accumulation and total macrofouling cover after a one and two-month immersion, explaining around half of the variation of the data. Growth rates of barnacles and encrusting bryozoans were highest in late spring and early summer when temperatures were increasing. A survey of Port Canaveral identified eight barnacle species, three of which are non-native to Florida, and found their presence to vary based on location in the port as well as time of year. In addition, surface orientation impacted the biofouling community composition, but not the abundance of non-native and cryptogenic species. This dissertation helps provide a foundation for the biofouling ecology at Port Canaveral. It also outlines a novel method that utilized clear recruitment panels as a nondestructive tool to further explore ecological relationships in biofouling communities. In addition, comparing the detailed information gathered during this study to the ongoing, long-term monitoring at Port Canaveral provided some context to the extreme changes in the community, demonstrating these two data sets are complementary. This work is a first step in creating predictive biofouling models and understanding the dynamics of non-native species at Port Canaveral. Expanding upon the data collected could help develop more informed biofouling management practices for ship and biosecurity managers.
Wassick, Ann Catherine, "Understanding Ecological Relationships to Improve Biofouling Management Practices in the Marine Environment" (2022). Theses and Dissertations. 1217.
Available for download on Sunday, December 17, 2023
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