Caulerpa, Invasive Species, GIS, Prediction Model


Invasions of exotic species are one of the primary causes of biodiversity loss on our planet (National Research Council 1995). In the marine environment, all habitat types including estuaries, coral reefs, mud flats, and rocky intertidal shorelines have been impacted (e.g. Bertness et al. 2001). Recently, the topic of invasive species has caught the public's attention. In particular, there is worldwide concern about the aquarium strain of the green alga Caulerpa taxifolia (Vahl) C. Agardh that was introduced to the Mediterranean Sea in 1984 from the Monaco Oceanographic Museum. Since that time, it has flourished in thousands of hectares of near-shore waters. More recently, C. taxifolia has invaded southern Californian and Australian waters. Since the waters of Florida are similar to the waters of the Mediterranean Sea and other invasive sites my study will focus on determining potential invasion locations in Florida. I will look at the present distribution of C. taxifolia - native strain in Florida as well as the distribution of the whole genus around the state. During this study, I address three questions: 1) What is the current distribution of Caulerpa spp. in Florida? 2) Can I predict the location of potential Caulerpa spp. invasions using a set of environmental parameters and correlate them to the occurrence of the algae with the support of Geographic Information System (GIS) maps? 3) Using the results of part two, is there an ecological preferred environment for one or all Caulerpa spp. in Florida? To answer these questions, I surveyed 24 areas in each of 6 zones chosen in a stratified manner along the Floridian coastline to evaluate the association of potential indicators Caulerpa. Latitude, presence or absence of seagrass beds, human population density, and proximity to marinas were chosen as the 4 parameters expected to correlate to Caulerpa occurrences. A logistic regression model assessing the association of Caulerpa occurrence with measured variables has been developed to predict current and future probabilities of Caulerpa spp. presence throughout the state. Fourteen different species of Caulerpa spp. were found in 26 of the 132 sites visited. There was a positive correlation between Caulerpa spp. and seagrass beds presence and proximity to marinas. There was a negative correlation with latitude and human population density. C. taxifolia – aquarium strain wasn't found. Percent correct for our model was of 61.5% for presence and 98.1% for absence. This prediction model will allow us to focus on particular areas for future surveys.


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Graduation Date





Walters, Linda J.


Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Arts and Sciences



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Masters Thesis (Open Access)

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Biology Commons