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A thorough assessment of aquatic nonindigenous species’ risk facilitates successful monitoring and prevention activities. However, species- and vector-specific information is often limited and difficult to synthesize across a single risk framework. To address this need, we developed an assessment framework capable of estimating the potential for introduction, establishment, and impact by aquatic nonindigenous species from diverse spatial origins and taxonomic classification, in novel environments. Our model builds on previous approaches, while taking on a new perspective for evaluation across species, vectors and stages to overcome the limitations imposed by single species and single vector assessments. We applied this globally-relevant framework to the Laurentian Great Lakes to determine its ability to evaluate risk across multiple taxa and vectors. This case study included 67 aquatic species, identified as “watchlist species” in NOAA’s Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System (GLANSIS). Vectors included shipping, hitchhiking/fouling, unauthorized intentional release, escape from recreational or commercial culture, and natural dispersal. We identified potential invaders from every continent but Africa and Antarctica. Of the 67 species, more than a fifth (21%) had a high potential for introduction and greater than 60% had a moderate potential for introduction. Shipping (72%) was the most common potential vector of introduction, followed by unauthorized intentional release (25%), hitchhiking/fouling (21%), dispersal (19%), stocking/planting/escape from recreational culture (13%), and escape from commercial culture. The ability to assess a variety of aquatic nonindigenous species from an array of potential vectors using a consistent methodology is essential for comparing likelihoods of introduction, establishment, and impact. The straightforward design of this framework will allow its application and modification according to policy priorities by natural resource managers. The ability to use a variety of information sources facilitates completion of assessments despite the paucity of data that often plagues aquatic nonindigenous species management.


Biodiversity | Biology | Biosecurity | Environmental Health | Fresh Water Studies | Marine Biology | Other Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology | Plant Sciences