Marine Research Findings of the VECTORS Project

This website provides access to the research results of the VECTORS project, which can be used to support marine management decisions, policies and governance as well as future research and investment. VECTORS was a large scale project that brought together more than 200 expert researchers from 16 different countries. It examined the significant changes taking place in European seas, their causes, and the impacts they will have on society.


Almost 1,300 marine and coastal non-indigenous species (NIS) and cryptogenic species have been recorded in Europe with more than 3700 introduction events. All European seas host NIS and some species are known with ephemeral populations of short duration but most have established self-sustaining populations. Of the latter, those spreading to form additional populations elsewhere and adversely affecting biological diversity, ecosystem functioning, socio-economic values or human health in invaded regions, are termed invasive alien species (IAS). IAS are considered as one of the key causes of biodiversity changes worldwide. The rate of new aquatic invasions has increased in recent decades, thereby increasing concerns. The increasing numbers of new arrivals document the need for species introduction vector management.

The impacts of IAS are immense, occasionally disastrous and almost always irreversible. IAS may alter the structures, dynamics or functions of aquatic communities, or impose significant economic costs. In monetary terms, it was recently calculated that the lost output due to all aquatic IAS, health impacts and expenditure to repair IAS damage costs EU stakeholders more than 100 million EUR annually. These concerns were noted by the United Nations which named IAS as one of the top five anthropogenic threats of the world's oceans.

Analyses of the long-term time series have demonstrated that despite dramatic changes in the environment, no uniform consequences to NIS have been observed. All shifts in population abundance are species-specific and exhibit no generic patterns.  All planktonic non-indigenous invertebrates studied showed an abrupt increase, whilst the biomass of benthic non-indigenous invertebrates were either stable or displayed an abrupt increase over time. Despite similar environmental settings, the dynamics of NIS vary among sub-basins, suggesting the existence of basin/habitat specific attributes modulating the invasion outcome. However, it has been found that changes in temperature seem to be a common significant forcing factor for the population dynamics of most NIS.

The 2020 goal of the EU Biodiversity Strategy concerning marine IAS may not be fully attainable without prompt concerted actions. The setting of a new target date may have to be considered and should be accompanied by scientifically robust, sensible and pragmatic plans to minimise introductions of marine NIS and to study those present.

VECTORS research focus:

  1. Evaluate distribution and spread of non-indigenous species in European seas
  2. Advance knowledge of the impacts of non-indigenous species
  3. Identify issues for assessment and management of marine non-indigenous species in Europe

Lead Author

Stephan Gollasch

Specific Research Areas

Vital rates of fish larvae 
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The content of this website may be subject to copyright, if you wish to use any of the information or figures please contact the attributed author(s).
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 266445
© Vectors 2015. Coordinated by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

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