Biopollution by alien species is considered one of the main threats to environmental health. The marine environment, traditionally less studied than inland domains, has been the object of recent work that is reviewed here. Increasing scientific evidence has been accumulated worldwide on ecosystem deterioration induced by the development of massive non-indigenous population outbreaks in many coastal sites. Biopollution assessment procedures have been proposed, adopting criteria already used for xenochemical compounds, adjusting them to deal with alien species invasions. On the other hand, prevention and mitigation measures to reduce biopollution impact cannot always mimic the emission countermeasures that have been successfully applied for chemical pollutants. Nevertheless, in order to design comprehensive water-quality criteria, risk assessment and management strategies, based on scientific knowledge, have been developed in a similar way as for chemical pollution. The Mediterranean Sea is a well-known case of alien species invasion, mainly linked to the opening of the Suez Canal. Non-indigenous species have caused well-documented changes in many coastal ecosystems, favoured by concomitant changes induced by global warming and by the heavy load of nutrients and pollutants by various anthropogenic activities. Naval commercial traffic and leisure boats are among the most active vectors of spread for alien species inside the Mediterranean, and also towards other ocean regions. The scientific evidence gathered and summarized in this review suggests that effective management actions, under a precautionary approach, should be put in place in order to control introductions of species in new areas. These management measures are already established in international treaties and national legislations, but should be enforced to prevent the disruption of the dynamic ecological equilibria in the receiving environment and to control the direct adverse effects of alien species.
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