When a natural disaster strikes, the last thing that most people are worried about is what animal or plant species might be carried to another country. But those new species are just what scientists are discovering from a dock ripped away by the tsunami that hit the northern coast of Japan last year.
According to a news story from WRAL.com in Raleigh, NC, tsunami waves sent four dock floats from the fishing port of Misawa to the whims of the ocean. One of the docks floated to a beach in Oregon, carrying millions of sea creatures, including species of crab, starfish and algea that are native to Japan but alien to the U.S.
One of the species of seaweed is already established in California but has not yet been in Oregon.
The dock illustrates one of many ways that non-native species get a foothold in the U.S. Storms such as hurricanes often bring new species of insects or sea life from one continent to another, or from one U.S. region to another. Although not all of the species new to the U.S. survive, some of them find an appealing climate, a lack of natural enemies and a scarcity of competition, so they thrive and often spread rapidly.
Volunteers scraped the organisms off of the dock and torched the dock to sterilize it. They hope that will prevent the spread of invasive species–at least the ones that have not already escaped.
Scientists plan to keep an eye on the new species to see what impact they will have on the northwest U.S. environment. The good news is that the dock tested negative for radiation, meaning that it broke away from its post before the explosion of the nuclear power plant.