Invasion risk posed by macroinvertebrates transported in ships’ ballast tanks
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- Briski, E., Ghabooli, S., Bailey, S.A. et al. Biol Invasions (2012) 14: 1843. doi:10.1007/s10530-012-0194-0
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Invasions by non-indigenous macroinvertebrates often cause ecological and economic problems, and commercial ships have been implicated as a principal mechanism for their dispersal. We explored the presence and species diversity of adult macroinvertebrates transported by transoceanic and coastal vessels arriving to ports on the Atlantic coast of Canada. We sampled 67 ballast tanks from 62 ships operating along discrete geographic pathways and tested whether mid-ocean exchange or voyage length affects the probability for translocation of macroinvertebrates. Additionally, we assessed the relationship between macroinvertebrate presence and the amount of sediment in ballast tanks. We document the presence of highly invasive European green crab (Carcinus maenas), mud crab (Rhithropanopeus harrisii), common periwinkle (Littorina littorea), soft shell clam (Mya arenaria) and blue mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis) in ballast tanks of surveyed ships. Mid-ocean exchange did not affect macroinvertebrate occurrence, suggesting that current ballast water management regulations are ineffective for this taxonomic group. Viable individuals were recorded in vessels undertaking shorter voyages (average and maximum of 4.5 and 15 days, respectively) and presence was not related to the amount of sediment in tanks. While presence and densities of macroinvertebrates were low, invasion risk may nonetheless be significant during reproductive seasons owing to high fecundity of some taxa. The highest risk may be posed by decapods since gravid females may carry thousands to several million eggs per clutch, and after several weeks of brooding, two or more subsequent clutches may be fertilized by retained sperm from an earlier mating.