The 2011 Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami washed massive amounts of debris into the sea. Boats, docks and parts of houses circulated in the Pacific and landed on the shores of North America, carrying animals native to Japan with them. In a paper published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers documented the scope of this unprecedented event for the first time.
The authors are concerned this might be a glimpse of the future. More people live along the seashore than ever before, and as major storms and associated surges become more common, massive rafting events like this may also increase, speeding the distribution of invasive species across the oceans.
"If you look at the Caribbean and the Florida Keys right now, there are entire neighborhoods gone. We know that this debris went into the ocean," study author James Carlton, a marine biologist at Williams College, tells Axios.