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Damages to the Black Sea, Caspian Sea and Baltic Sea by the invader comb jelly Mnemiopsis leidyi

Elif Eker-Develi

In the present study changes in ecosystems of the Black Sea, Caspian Sea and Baltic Sea after the invasion of ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi were investigated. Excessive increase in plant plankton as a result of antrophogenic eutrophication leads to a shift in mesozooplankton com-position, which is the main food item of these comb jellies. For instance, while some mesozoo-plankton species disappeared from the environment or substantially decreased in number, some others increased in quantity. These changes in food chain may promote the rise of jellyfishes rather than fish in the environment. In addition, decrease in planktivorous fish abundance as a consequence of overfishing also triggers the increase of newly introduced comb jellies, which were possibly introduced via ballast waters of ships, in the ecosystem. Increase in abundance of M. leidyi, which compete with planktivorous fishes (anchovy, Engraulis encrasicolus ponticus in the Black Sea, kilka, Clupeonella spp. in the Caspian Sea) for their food, causes to decrease of planktivorous fish stocks which have already been vulnerable due to overfishing. Another reason for successfully adaption of M. leidyi to its new ecosystems could be linked to global warming which provides favourable temperature ranges for reproduction and growth of this ctenophore. Although there are still many debates related to possible negative effects, one of the ways to reduce harmful impacts of invaders might be the transport of natural predators of these invaders to the new ecosystems of invaders. For example, it was reported that the abun-dance of Mnemiopsis leidyi decreased to very low levels during 1999-2004 in the Black Sea following the introduction of another comb jelly, Beroe ovata, which feed on this ctenophore.