An IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB) study notes that artificial underwater structures stimulate jellyfish proliferation

Jellyfish polyps proliferate in underwater surfaces created by man, as revealed by an international investigation led by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). On these surfaces, such as ports, oil platforms, aquaculture farms and tourist installations, up to 100,000 polyps per square meter are detected. These have a major ability to produce jellyfish.

The Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (a joint research centre from the CSIC and the University of the Balearic Islands) researcher Carlos Duarte, who has led the study, explains: “The increase in anthropogenic structures is providing habitats for polyps, which could be an important factor to explain the overall increase in proliferation of jellyfish”. So far, studies that have attempted to explain this phenomenon have focused on variables related to jellyfish in their adult phase.

The research, which has been published in the latest issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, reveals that the species Cotylorhiza tuberculata, for instance, has a density on bricks of about 20 polyps per square centimeter. This is to be compared with one per square centimeter nested on shells of live oysters and about eight per square centimeter on shells of dead ones.

Artificial structures in coastal areas are rising between 3.7% and 28.3% annually. According to the article, this may be “especially critical in areas of soft sediments as the Gulf of Mexico”, where the availability of natural substrates is low, which limits the number of polyps. The research team has called this phenomenon “Trojan horse effect”.

The regions analyzed belong to underwater areas worldwide, including Japan, United Kingdom, Spain and the United States. The work is the result of an international collaboration funded by the National Science Foundation of the U.S., through the National Center for Ecological Analysis.

Source: CSIC

Citation: Carlos M. Duarte et al. «Is global ocean sprawl a cause of jellyfish blooms?». Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. DOI: 10.1890/110246

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