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March 2001 / Article - Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean
Kudzu of the Oceans

In the late 1800's, Japan imported a fast growing vine to the United States for the Japanese display for the World Fair. Since that time, this vine has covered the South. Unlike Japan who uses goats and hogs to destroy the vine, in the United States, chemicals are employed. There is a joke in the South that says, "If you want to plant Kudzu, just toss a vine on some concrete, water it with oil and run before it catches you."

Now we are faced with another plant that far exceeds Kudzu, AIDS, over population, or global warming. It name is Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean!

Before I began with this ecological disaster, I DO wish to mention, and make it very clear to everyone reading this article, that Mister Leng K. Sy, of Ecosystem Aquarium has a very nice, non threatening, safe, excellent strain of Caulerpa. Mister Sy system is an outstanding method of keeping salt water fish and reef tanks. Mister Sy plants are NOT in any way, shape or form, the same plants mentioned in this article. His plants are Caulerpa taxifolia, NOT, Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean!

There are more than 70 Caulerpa species. I would highly recommend using his plants and system for any aquarium you chose to set up. He has express in telephone conversations, horror in regards to this mutant plant that is overtaking the Mediterranean Sea and is progressing towards the oceans of the world.

Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean makes it's debut
 - Where did Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean come from?

In 1984 following experiments at the Scientific Centre of Monaco in the principality's Ocean Museum, the tanks from the Ocean Museum were flushed an d vented to the sea. The non aggressive form of Caulerpa taxifolia is believed to undergone mutation when subjected to prolong and intense Ultra Violet light. Shortly after the flushing of their aquariums, the algae was detected in ONE SINGLE SITE! The site measured one square metre on the French Coast, directly across from the vents of the Monaco's Ocean Museum.

The diver who discovered this plot, reported it to the French Government and requested the algae be eradicate. Permission was denied because the French Government decided the algae was not a threat. They based their course upon former data. Since the turn of the 20th Century, more than sixty alien species of algae including Caulerpa racemosa have been identified in the Mediterranean. These species have found their way to the Sea through the Straits of Gibraltar or the Suez Canal. All of these algae species have adapted without causing any major problems. Likewise, the French Government assumed, incorrectly, this was another alien algae species that would adapt and not disrupt the environment.

The Second International Seminar on Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean (Barcelona, 1994) stated, " Never before has an introduced species demonstrated all of the following characteristics en masse: dominance, toxicity, occupation of ALL (100%) of the sublittoral biotopes, absence or scarcity of predators, longevity, and absence of any season of total repose.

The most recent International seminar (Paris, Mar 1997) has further declared, "The extraordinary invasive capacity of this species, {Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean} is based on a broad auto-ecological amplitude, rapid and efficient growth and spread, gigantism, vigour of development, density, resistance to the cold, ecological dominance, and an aggressive strategy. These qualities have never before been observed in tropical populations of this kind or in any other seaweeds introduced into the Mediterranean."

Because of these unique qualities of Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean, the underwater territoriality Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean is waging war on is submitting a hundred percent to this new life form.

Other arguments of Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean origin
 - Anything bad, no one or country wants to be associated with it!

Since Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean was first discovered to be a formidable pest, the finger pointing has been at the France's Scientific Centre of Monaco in the principality's Ocean Museum. Remember, the French government believed this algae was another algae that would adapt and cause no harm. It was their unfortunateness this time they guessed wrong. No one could foresee the lack of thermal shock to such an incredible degree of adaption of a topical algae to the Mediterranean conditions.

In rebuttal to the accusations, this "Killer Algae" as reported by the price, the French Government, issued a paper co-authored by Jean Jaubert, Director of the Scientific Centre of Monaco. The paper was an article in a recent issue of "Life Sciences."

This paper puts forth a premise without any scientific data to support it's premisses that Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean, "may have migrated" to the Mediterranean from the Levant Sea, where it has been resident since 1939, along with another species, Caulerpa mexicana. "If this has indeed occurred," concludes Jean Jaubert, "movement of these two species has taken place during a period of significant warning of the western Mediterranean, adding momentum to the theory that Mediterranean communities may be responding to climate change"

Standing against this scientific paper, the following was issued by the Comptes-Rendus de l'Academie des Sciences de Paris/Lofe Science 1996, 319:603-13

Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean
(Vahl) C. Agardh, souche de Mediterranee

1. Parting of rhizoids spaced on the stolon (>1cm), always at the end of long pillars (>1cm) Male only form.

2. Pinnules are narrow and long: the ratio length on width (L/w) range between 4 and 12, as a function of the environment.

3. Minimal vialibility temperature: 10 C, but temperatures of 5 C were already seen in the lagune du Brusc (Var-France), where Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean has been found!

Caulerpa mexicana
 - Kuntzig ex Sonder

1. Partings of rhizoids are very closed on the stolon (<1 cm), those rhizoids are sometimes directly carried by the stolon, or at the end of not very developed pillars (<1cm) Both Male and Female forms.

2. The pinnules are width and short: the ratio length on width (L/w) range between 2,5 and 5, as a function of the environment.

3. Minimal vialibility temperature: 16 C.

The French Academy of Science put its name to the latter theory, then six months later challenged it outright in a second report in a hundred and eighty degree turn. This was a sensational turn about and the arguments began. Because of this, the scientific squabble was therefore never really to be taken seriously.

The question now is not to save face, but to find a solution and forget the squabbling and finger pointing.

How much area is conquered by Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean
 - An extraordinary invasive capacity

Since 1984 when Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean was first detected, by 1990 three sites on the same coastline covered 3 hectares. (hectare = 2.2 acre). One year later these 3 hectares had expanded to 30 hectares. In April1995, a UNEP document on "The presence of Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean in the Mediterranean" was submitted to MAP's Scientific and Technical and Socio0Economic Committees. It was estimated the area now covered 1,500 hectares on the basis of 1994 data. The following year, 1996, the figure was now 3,000 hectares (30 km2). It had double its area in one year. Presently, 1998, Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean is estimated to cover 6,000 hectares!

How Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean spreads
 - Faster than a speeding boat

This exponential increase is not only the result of spreading over short distances by the growing rhizoids, but the most common way it spreads over short and long distances is through the dissemination of cuttings.

Pieces of Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean attached to anchors of pleasure craft, or swept away with fishing nets, the cuttings are spread as fast as it's ride will carry it. Divers sometimes tangle with Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean, and bring it back with their dive gear. The unique matter about this algae, if kept moist in a dark place, it can live out of water for 10 days. The Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean cuttings need only to be placed in water for them to grow again. This terrible possibility presents the fact, that ecological terrorists could mail this plant world wide and extort governments.

Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean grows three times faster than Caulerpa taxifolia and three times taller (36 inches).

Where does Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean grow
 - Like an elephant who wants to sleep, anywhere it desires

Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean has the unique ability to adapt to ANY substrate and conquer it. This vigorous, quasi-permanent and thick vegetable coverages colonises at depths of 5 to 30 (15 to 90 feet) metres. But new sightings by submarines have found it flourishing at depths of over 100 (300 feet +) metres.

Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean takes over all substrates. This can include, sand bottoms, rocks, piers and cliffs. Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean even destroys the Posidonia meadows which play an essential role around the Mediterranean. The Posidonia meadows bolster and protect the coastline, and act as a refuge, habitat, spawning ground and nursery for countless numbers of species. (MEDWAVES 1991). Like the Tsetse Fly, there has NOT been any area where Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean has invaded, not taken over and is unable to be eradicated.. It out competes all algae, by smothering them. A growing a monoculture, this limits the amount of fish and other life that can inhabit that area.

Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean grows at the same growth rate in places away from any source of pollution, or in very heavy polluted harbors. It is found in front of headlands, just as well as in sheltered bays.

If Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean invades the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and other oceans and seas, it could destroy many of the species we use for food. Thus, destroying the bottom of the food chain, will affect the predators at the top.

If Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean invades the tropics, not only will it destroy food fish, but the entire salt water tropical fish industry will collapse. For the demand for tank raised fish would far exceed the amount produced.

Meanwhile while you are reading this article, Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean is marching, unchecked towards Gibralter, the East, Africa, the Atlantic Ocean and the Suez Cannel.

What are Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean enemies
 - Just about nothing

Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean not only grows fast, and adapts to any substrate, this algae has equipped itself with an armoury to ward off predators.

Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean secretes nine various toxins such as caulerpenyne which is predominant. . At this time, this compound is not toxic in humans. It is toxic for molluscs, sea urchins, hebivorous fish, and submarine flora. What this means in layman terms, Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean is safe from most predators.

There are snails that will consume Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean. Their only draw back, is they cannot adapt to the cold harsh winters of the Mediterranean, and Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean grows faster than the snails can consume it.

The French government has banned the use of these snails because, The French Government does not want to create an environmental disaster.

How is Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean destroyed
 - Nothing is effective.

Number of ways have been attempted to eradicate Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean.

Physical means: Manual extraction, and suction.

Poisons: Copper, aspiration salt, etc.

Slugs: That feed exclusively on Caulerpa.

All of the above have failed. A plot in Spain was thought to be destroyed by suction, only to return within a month.

What are we to do about Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean
 - Fight while we still have a chance

Governments can be a bain or a boost. Many times governments because they do not wish to have their people angered, do nothing. Something positive is happening in regards to Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean. The European Community is rapidly coming together to combat this foe. They have placed laws governing the sale, transport and handling of this terrible weed. The French Government is the nation leading the charge into the battle, against this deadly foe.

If you dive, fish or boat in the Mediterranean, and come across Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean, you should do the following things.

1. Phone the Laboratoie Environnement Marin Littoral at (33) 04 92 07 68 46
 - Give your name
 - Call number where you can be joined by a member of the staff
 - Information concerning the algae.

2. Do not hesitate to give any information.
 - Geographical situation.
 - Proof it is Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean
 - Where Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean is in the environment (rock, sand, etc)
 - Any other information you can give.

Please, whatever you do:
DO NOT SEND SAMPLES OF Caulerpa taxifolia x mediterranean TO ANY OTHER COUNTRY OR KEEP IT IN YOUR AQUARIUM...

Snake
March, 2001
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