How the peach blossom jellyfish is spreading across North America

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The momojelly (Craspedacusta sowerbii) is native to China and is an invasive species in Canada.Credit: Florian Lüskow, author provided

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The momojelly (Craspedacusta sowerbii) is native to China and is an invasive species in Canada.Credit: Florian Lüskow, provided by author

Invasive species are a serious problem in Canada, and one species in particular is freshwater jellyfish in the genus Craspedacusta sowerbii. sowerbii, or peach blossom jellyfish, are widespread but poorly understood.

There is anecdotal evidence that invasive jellyfish have been present in British Columbia’s lakes and ponds for decades. Still, the number of sightings has increased significantly since his 2000 year, according to data compiled.

Unfortunately, however, we are still very much in the dark about its extent in Canada, how it got here, how it spreads, and what significant impacts it has on freshwater ecosystems across Canada. I have limited information. Mitigation and management strategies have not yet been developed, and many fundamental questions about the ecology of the species remain unanswered.

Climate change and species introductions

Claspedacasta species are subtropical, but adaptable creatures that prefer moderate to high water temperatures. Cooler water temperatures have historically served as a check on their growth and expansion, but rising temperatures around the world are accelerating their expansion.

Therefore, the recent increase in sightings of C. sowerbii in BC, across Canada, and around the world indicates that suitable habitat for the jellyfish is expanding as a result of global warming. At the same time, there has been an increase in public awareness and observation efforts leading to more effective recognition.

Current modeling suggests that the giant peach jelly will expand to higher latitudes in both hemispheres during this century and persist in freshwater systems for longer periods of the year, from spring to late fall.

Unfortunately, this species is rarely the focus of research. Currently, as far as I know, biologist oceanographer Evgeny Pakhomov and I are the only people studying this species and its importance to Canada.

Our research shows that this trend is not limited to British Columbia and is expected to occur in other provinces such as Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. Craspedacusta sowerbii has occurred irregularly in the Great Lakes region on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border since the 1930s.

Little invaders, unexpected events

Unfortunately, the state’s current monitoring and reporting of this species is lackluster.

Although a number of tools and data have been shown to be effective in monitoring populations in North America and Europe, no states currently include them in their annual reports or statistics.

For example, the British Columbia Invasive Species Council’s annual report does not include large-scale data synthesis on the Chinese giant jellyfish. As a result of this lack of data, no evidence of seasonal or long-term population trends exists.

Compounding these difficulties is the fact that C. sowerbii is known as a complex species. This means that there may be several undetected species with the same name. The subtle differences in distinguishing these species are not only of academic interest, but also key to identifying how these species move between ecosystems.

Understanding all of these aspects is critical to start thinking seriously about mitigation and management strategies.

we can’t manage what we don’t understand

Although this species is harmless to humans, it is unclear how freshwater jellyfish interact with other lake and pond inhabitants. There is evidence that these jellyfish are a potentially rich food source for juvenile fish and may compete with other native species for food.

On the other hand, insufficient up-to-date information is available about the different life stages of jellyfish and the specific effects of each stage. In fact, polyps and other juveniles are present year-round, but their exact location, abundance, and activity level are completely unknown.

Government reporting infrastructure exists in some states and territories, but large-scale data has not yet been analyzed. Efforts have been hampered by the lack of inclusion of momo jellyfish in regular monitoring programs.

We want to stimulate interest and motivation to better understand this issue at all levels, from federal to state to local governments.

This lack of data, and data collection efforts by provinces, has serious implications for Canada’s ecological security and limits the effectiveness of management and adaptation plans for years to come.

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