Modelling potential habitat of the invasive ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi in Aegean Sea
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The invasive ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi was accidentally introduced into the Black Sea in the early 1980s and it was first sighted in the Aegean Sea (Eastern Mediterranean) in the early 1990s. This article presents a first attempt to develop a predictive spatial model based on M. leidyi presence data and satellite environmental data from the Aegean Sea during early summer, in order to identify those areas in the Greek Seas and the entire Mediterranean basin that could serve as potential habitat for the species. Generalized additive models (GAM) were applied. The final GAM model indicated higher probability of finding M. leidyi present in depths of 65–135 m and sea surface temperature values of 21–25°C. Furthermore, the significant interaction between photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) and sea level anomaly (SLA) indicated a higher probability of M. leidyi presence in low values of PAR and SLA. In the next step, the final GAM was applied in a prediction grid of mean monthly satellite values for June 2004–2006 in order to estimate probability of M. leidyi presence in the Hellenic Seas and the whole Mediterranean basin at a GIS resolution of 4 km. In the Aegean Sea, species potential habitat included areas influenced by the Black Sea Water (e.g. Thracian Sea, Limnos-Imvros plateau), gulfs that are affected by river runoffs, such as the Thermaikos, Strymonikos and Patraikos gulfs, or areas with strong anthropogenic influence such as the Saronikos gulf. Areas with the same environmental conditions as those in Aegean Sea have been indicated in certain spots of the Levantine Sea as well as in coastal waters of Egypt and Libya, although their spatial extent varied largely among years examined. However, the occurrence of conditions that are linked to high probability of M. leidyi presence does not necessarily mean that these areas can support successful reproduction, high population or bloom levels, since these depend on a combination of temperature, salinity, food availability and the abundance of predators.