Alien Invasion

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					                 Life on the Edge: Exploring Deep Ocean Habitats

                                   Alien Invasion

FOCUS                                                         TEACHING TIME
  Invasive species                                              One 45-minute class period, plus time for student
  5-6 (Life Science)                                          SEATING ARRANGEMENT
                                                                Groups of 4-6 students
  How do alien species enter non-native habitats,             MAXIMUM NUMBER OF STUDENTS
  what problems are associated with these species,              30
  and what can be done about them?
                                                              KEY WORDS
LEARNING OBJECTIVES                                             Hard bottom
  Students will be able to compare and contrast                 Lophelia
  “alien species” and “invasive species.”                       Lionfish
                                                                Alien species
  Students will be able to explain positive and nega-           Invasive species
  tive impacts associated with introduction of non-
  native species, and give a specific example of spe-         BACKGROUND INFORMATION
  cies that produce these impacts.                              For hundreds of years, thousands of fishermen
                                                                have harvested U.S. coastal waters of the Atlantic
  Students will be able to describe at least three ways         Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Yet, the marine habi-
  in which species may be introduced into non-native            tats of the adjacent outer continental shelves and
  environments.                                                 slopes are poorly studied and in many cases
                                                                completely unknown. Until recently, most scientists
  Students will be able to describe possible actions            assumed that these habitats did not support large
  that can be taken to mitigate negative impacts                or productive biological communities. Although
  caused by non-native species.                                 no one had actually visited the edges of the conti-
                                                                nental shelves for a first hand look, they believed
MATERIALS                                                       that the extensive commercial fisheries depended
  None                                                          upon migrations from other areas and/or nutrients
                                                                carried in from deeper or coastal waters. But once
AUDIO/VISUAL MATERIALS                                          they actually began exploring the area more thor-
   Blackboard, marker board with markers, or over-             oughly, scientists found many diverse and thriving
     head projector with transparencies and markers             benthic communities.
     for group discussions
Life on the Edge: Exploring Deep Ocean Habitats – Grades 5-6 (Life Science)
Focus: Invasive species                                                                           

           Between North Carolina and Florida, several                   on Ocean Exploration expeditions expect to see
           unique habitats are found where the topography of             unusual and unexpected things. But members of the
           the outer continental shelf is extremely rugged and           Islands in the Stream expedition saw an animal that
           swept by the powerful currents of the Gulf Stream.            was not only unusual and unexpected, but unwel-
           Hard or “live” bottom habitats support diverse bio-           come as well: an Indo-Pacific lionfish, equipped
           logical communities that include valuable fish and            with venomous spines and definitely alien to the
           invertebrate resources. On the edge of the conti-             Atlantic coast! This activity focuses on alien species
           nental shelf where depths range from 80 to 250 m,             and invasive pests, the problems they cause, and
           hard bottom communities provide the foundation                what can be done about them.
           for the food web of many commercially important
           species. But while scientists have studied many hard        LEARNING PROCEDURE
           bottom communities within the range of SCUBA                    1. Review the general geographic location and
           gear, they know very little about about the ecology                form of the continental shelf adjacent to the
           of these communities in deeper waters.                             U.S. Atlantic coast. Tell students that very little
                                                                              is known about the ecology of the edge and
           Even deeper, on the middle of the continental                      slope of the shelf, but that recent explora-
           slope, the deep-sea coral Lophelia pertusa forms                   tions have found diverse and thriving benthic
           another almost-unexplored habitat. Here, in                        communities. Show students (or have them
           depths of 400 to 700 m, branches of living coral                   visit) web pages from the 2002 Islands in the
           grow on mounds of dead coral branches that can                     Stream Expedition describing the siting of a
           be several meters deep and hundreds of meters                      lionfish (
           long. Unlike corals that produce reefs in shal-                    02sab/logs/aug02/aug02.html). Ask students what
           lower waters, Lophelia does not have symbiotic                     they know about lionfish. Depending upon
           algae and receives nutrition from plankton and                     their responses, you may want to have them
           particulate material captured by its polyps from                   research this species, or you may want to tell
           the surrounding water. Lophelia mounds alter the                   them that this fish has venomous spines and
           flow of currents and provide habitats for a variety                is a native of the tropical Pacific Ocean, not
           of filter feeders. Scientists suspect that many other              the Atlantic! Ask students how the lionfish
           organisms may also inhabit deep-sea coral reefs,                   could have wandered so far from home. The
           including commercially important fishes and crusta-                most likely explanation, of course, is that
           ceans. But they don’t know for sure, because most                  humans are responsible; probably someone
           of the hard bottom and deep-sea coral habitats on                  with an aquarium accidentally or deliber-
           the edge and slope of the continental shelf are still              ately released the lionfish into the ocean. Tell
           unexplored.                                                        students that between 2000 and 2002, 49
                                                                              lionfish were reported off the coast of North
           The 2003 Life on the Edge Expedition will search                   Carolina from locations at depths of 85 to
           previously unexplored hard bottom habitats and                     260 feet. Ask what problems might result from
           deep coral banks on the edge and slope of the                      the introduction of lionfish to the U.S. Atlantic
           continental shelf adjacent to the coasts of North                  coast. Human injury is one possibility, as well
           and South Carolina and define the biological                       as competition with native species, some of
           communities living in these habitats. Scientists on                which might affect economically important
           the mission plan to keep a particularly sharp eye                  fisheries.
           out for an alien species spotted during the 2002
           Islands in the Stream Expedition. Because they                     “Alien species” and “invasive species” have
           often go where no one has gone before, scientists                   been defined by NOAA’s National Center for

                                                 Life on the Edge: Exploring Deep Ocean Habitats – Grades 5-6 (Life Science)                                                                              Focus: Invasive species

       Coastal Ocean Science:                                           This is particularly relevant in the case of
       “Alien” species are non-native or nonindige-                     exotic pets (such as lionfish) which may be
       nous species that have been introduced, either                   thoughtlessly liberated when they are no lon-
       intentionally or unintentionally, into a region;                 ger wanted, with potentially serious results.
       these alien species have been able to estab-
       lish populations that are able to successfully          THE BRIDGE CONNECTION
       reproduce in the region. Such populations        – Click on “Ocean Science” in
       often appear, flourish for a while in relatively          the navigation menu to the left, then “Biology,” then
       restricted areas of the coastline, and then die           “Exotics” for resources on non-native species
       out. “Invasive” species, however, are thriving
       alien populations, expanding their range with           THE “ME” CONNECTION
       generally increasing ecological, environmen-              Have students write a short essay about how non-
       tal, economic, or human health consequences.              native species have been of personal harm or
    2. Tell students that their assignment is to
       research other examples of alien and invasive           CONNECTIONS TO OTHER SUBJECTS
       species, and to prepare a report that                     English Language Arts; Social Studies
       • describes positive and negative impacts
            associated with introduction of non-native         EVALUATION
            species;                                             Reports prepared in Step 2 provide an opportunity
       • gives specific examples of species that pro-            for evaluation.
            duce these impacts;
       • describes at least three ways in which spe-           EXTENSIONS
            cies may be introduced into non-native               Log on to to keep up to date
            environments; and                                    with the latest Life on the Edge Expedition discover-
       • describes possible actions that can be taken            ies, and to find out whether researchers have made
            to deal with the negative impacts caused             additional sightings of non-native species.
            by non-native species.
       You may want to direct students to the web-   
       sites listed under “Resources.”                                    – Lionfish fact sheet

    3. Have student groups present and discuss their 
       research findings. Students should realize                         – Fact sheet on the National Centers for
       that not all non-native species are considered                     Coastal Ocean Science Alien Species Early
       harmful, though they may still have had nega-                      Detection and Warning System
       tive impacts on native ecosystems. Eight of the
       nine most economically important plants in the
       United States originated outside the country.                     – Council for Agricultural Science and
       On the other hand, there is a sizable list of                     Technology issue paper on invasive pest spe-
       deliberately or accidentally introduced spe-                      cies
       cies that have had distinctly negative impacts.
       Students should realize that there is always  
       the possibility that introduction of a non-native                  aug02.html – Log entry for lionfish sight-
       species will have unforeseen consequences.                         ing during the 2002 Islands in the Stream

Life on the Edge: Exploring Deep Ocean Habitats – Grades 5-6 (Life Science)
Focus: Invasive species                                                                              

                 Expedition                                                       • Risks and benefits – A       FOR MORE INFORMATION
                  booklet on the handling and disposal of non-                  Paula Keener-Chavis, National Education
                  native aquatic species                                              Coordinator/Marine Biologist
                                                                                NOAA Office of Exploration – Project Oceanica              2234 South Hobson Avenue
                   website, with a variety of resources on ocean                Charleston, SC 29405-2413
                   exploration topics                                           843.740.1338
                                                                                843.740.1329 (fax) – U.S. Geological  
                   Survey Open-File Report 01-154 “Sea-Floor
                   Photography from the Continental Margin                    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
                   Program”                                                     This lesson plan was produced by Mel Goodwin,
                                                                                PhD, The Harmony Project, Charleston, SC for the
        NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS                                    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
        Content Standard A: Science As Inquiry                                  If reproducing this lesson, please cite NOAA as the
            • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry                      source, and provide the following URL:
            • Understandings about scientific inquiry                 

        Content Standard C: Life Science
            • Populations and ecosystems
            • Diversity and adaptations of organisms

        Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social
            • Populations, resources, and environments
            • Natural hazards


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