[Coral-List] Lionfish in the news

Matthew Johnston johnmatt at nova.edu
Sat Feb 1 12:30:03 EST 2014


It is an interesting point you bring up about the southern end of the Windward Islands.  A colleague and I published a 2011 paper on the spatial pattern of establishment of lionfish throughout the Atlantic and Caribbean.  The findings included the results of a cellular automaton computer modeling study, the algorithm of which was developed based on reported sightings of lionfish to the USGS NAS database.  The model predicted that the southern of the Windward Islands was indeed one of the last places where establishment would occur in the Caribbean, and this seems to be the pattern that lionfish have followed.  You mentioned the fact that larvae/eggs would need to move up-current to reach the windward islands, and this is exactly what our modeling scenario revealed, based on mean average currents for the whole Caribbean basin.  Here is the citation for that paper and a follow-up if you wish to read more:

Johnston, M.W., Purkis, S.J. (2011) Spatial analysis of the invasion of lionfish in the western Atlantic and Caribbean. Marine Pollution Bulletin 62 (6), 1218-1226.<http://www.mattspace.com/lionfish/mpb/Johnston-Purkis-MPB-2011.pdf>
Johnston, M.W., Purkis, S.J. (2012) Invasionsoft: A web-enabled tool for invasive species colonization predictions. Aquatic Invasions 7(3), 405-417.<http://www.mattspace.com/lionfish/mpb/Johnston-Purkis-MPB-2011.pdf>

By 2009, the lionfish invasion was in full swing, and while they surely arrived a bit before then in the Windwards, the delay between actual establishment and reports was probably not as long because people were actively monitoring for them.  The major currents in that region run east to west and so movement southeast would be difficult, according to our modeling effort.
I wonder if the Diadema and Acropora pathogen were driven less by currents, but rather spread radially, more by local contact than water-borne and long distance distribution of disease propagules.  The Trade Wind theory is also an interesting explanation.  I don't claim expertise on any of these pathogens, but if they were spread solely by currents, I agree that they would have a tough upstream journey getting from Panama to the Windwards, unless perhaps some major current switching events, such as a hurricane, occurred during that time.

Matt Johnston
Research Scientist/Scientific Computer Programmer
National Coral Reef Institute
Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center
8000 N. Ocean Drive, Dania, FL 33004 USA
johnmatt at nova.edu<mailto:johnmatt at nova.edu>
954.262.3641 (office, CoE #506)
954.205.8007 (cell)

Date: Thu, 30 Jan 2014 15:04:26 -0500

From: Eugene Shinn <eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu<mailto:eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>>

Subject: [Coral-List] Lionfish in the news

To: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov<mailto:coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov<mailto:coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>>

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   It was interesting reading through the most recent postings on Lionfish. In one of the websites I noted (in the 2009 USGS map of lionfish sightings) that they had not yet reached the Windward Islands or at least had not been observed  there yet. However, a more recent map someone working on Lionfish showed me indicates that they are now in the Windward Island but have not yet made the jump to the southern end of the island chain. Nevertheless, considering how long they have been in the Caribbean they should have reached those islands long before 2009.

If they really were not in the the windwards islands by 2009 there was a good reason why. They, or their eggs and larvae, would have to swim against a strong East to West current. But that's no problem.  Many researchers had no problem accepting the hypothesis that what ever decimated Diadema in 1983 started around the Panama Canal were not stopped by the current and in less than a year had reached the Windward Islands. Also, the Caribbean-wide demise of Acroporids (including the Windward Islands) occurred during the same year (1983). Humm. Again it is possible that Lionfish did make it to the Windward Islands long before 2009 but just had not been observed yet. It would be interesting to know when they actually did reach the islands. Clearly the pathogen that caused Diadema and Acroporid demise made the trip. I wonder if it could be that the Diadema and Acropora pathogen, along with the soil fungi that caused the sea fan disease, just dropped out of the the prevailing trade winds in 1983? Something to ponder.

Nevertheless I suspect  we will be discussing Lionfish immigration for as long as congress discusses immigration reform.

Hopefully they will just die off from natural causes, the lionfish that is.  Gene


No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)

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