Does sand beach nourishment enhance the dispersion of non-indigenous species?—the case of the common moon crab, matuta victor (fabricius, 1781), in the southeastern mediterranean

Dov Zviely, Dror Zurel, Dor Edelist, Menashe Bitan, Ehud Spanier

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Sand beach nourishment (BN) is one of the commonest “soft solutions” for shore protection and restoration. Yet it may have ecological consequences. Can this practice enhance the introduction and dispersal of non-indigenous species (NIS)? There has been little research on the impacts of nourishment on NIS, especially in the southeastern Mediterranean, a region considered most affected by invading biota. However, so far only one study referred to the possible interaction between BN and the success of invading species. It reports increasing numbers and densities of the aggressive, omnivorous Indo-Pacific moon crab, Matuta victor (Fabricius, 1781) in Haifa Bay (northern Israel) between 2011 and 2017. This research suggests a possible role of anthropogenic disturbance in the outbreak of M. victor and blames the Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection for authorizing a (rather small scale) BN in Haifa Bay in 2011 as an alleged cause for this outbreak. Circumstantial indirect evidence is not sufficient to establish the role of nourishment in promoting the establishment and dispersal of NIS. There are plenty of examples of successful settlement and rapid and large-scale distribution of NIS (including another member of the genus Matuta), especially in the eastern Mediterranean, without any BN in the region. Furthermore, the location where the M. victor specimens were sampled was exposed to more prevailing and frequent anthropogenic marine stressors than BN, such as eutrophication, pollution, fishing activities and particularly port construction. To firmly establish an assumed role of nourishment in the invasion of NIS, assessments must be based on solid and orderly planned scientific research to be designed well before the beginning of any BN. It is suggested that direct communication between environmental regulators and scientists is crucial for improving both scientific research and environmental management policies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number911
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Finally, Innocenti et al. [37] suggested that the Israeli MOEP neglected to consider the long-term consequences of providing suitable habitat for Indo-Pacific NIS when authorizing BN in the polluted and eutrophic Haifa Bay. There are several considerations that MOEP takes into account when authorizing BN, including the social impact of the loss of beaches to the human population of Haifa Bay and the possibility of marine pollution due to damage to existing infrastructure located at the back of the eroding beaches, such as the oil terminal. However, the issue of invasive species was not overlooked during the 2016 nourishment activities and was a major component in the infauna monitoring programs and regulations regarding BN projects. For example, the use of imported sand from Turkey in a major BN project in southern Israel was not authorized by MOEP due to the discovery of Caulerpa taxifolia, a known invasive seaweed species, in the dredging borrow area [76]. A strain of the species bred for use in aquariums has established non-native populations in waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the United States, and Australia and altered the structure of native biotic communities (e.g., [77]). Soft bottom invasive species are also monitored by Israel’s national monitoring program, funded by MOEP since the early 1980s. Hard bottom invasive species in Haifa Bay have been monitored every 3 months since 2015 as part of the Environmental Monitoring and Management Program (EMMP) for construction of the Bayport.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Coastal processes
  • Dredging
  • Haifa Bay
  • Invasive species
  • Lessepsian migration
  • Levant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering


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