On the dock, about half the plant species already exist on the West Coast, said Gayle Hansen, a research marine taxonomist at Oregon State University, who has spent hours with her eye scrunched up against a microscope examining samples from the dock.
Among the exotic seaweeds was one known as wakame, which has become a nuisance around the world, but is not yet found in Oregon, she said.
Whether hitchhiking species will survive here depends on randomness, she said. Seaweeds probably would not have survived to reproduce in the crashing surf at Agate Beach. It's the wrong kind of environment. But if they had floated into Yaquina Bay, very similar to their home waters in Japan, they could grow and reproduce.
Lindeberg said, "The only defense for invasive species is early detection. Just like cancer."
While monitoring is relatively cheap, say $30,000 to watch nearby waters for species from the dock, trying to stop an established invasion is expensive. California spent $7 million trying to eradicate a seaweed, she said.
She said she hoped there would be funding for monitoring tsunami invasive species.
James Morris, a marine ecologist and invasive species specialist at the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, in Beaufort, N.C., said the idea a natural disaster like the tsunami could introduce a new avenue for invasive species is intriguing.
"It goes to show you that when it comes to invasive species, there are some things you can work to regulate and control," he said. "And there are issues like this that come up that open up a whole different realm of possibilities."
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