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Assessing impacts of introduced aquatic species: Grass carp in large systems

Abstract

Introduced species have created environmental benefits and unanticipated disasters so a priori assessments of species introductions are needed for environmental management. A checklist for assessing impacts of introduced species was developed from studies of introduced species and recommendations for planning introductions. Sterile, triploid grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) are just beginning to be used as a biocontrol agent for the management of aquatic vegetation in open waterways. Potential impacts of grass carp in open systems were identified by reviewing grass carp biology relative to the impact assessment checklist. The potential consequences of introduced grass carp were reviewed for one case study. The case study demonstrated that conclusions about potential impacts and monitoring needs can be made despite incomplete information and uncertainty.

Indicators of environmental impact and vulnerability of host systems were grouped into six categories: population control, hybridization, diseases and parasites, habitat alterations, biological effects, and management issues. Triploid grass carp can significantly alter habitat and biological resources through the secondary effects of reductions in aquatic vegetation. Potential impacts and significant uncertainties involve fish dispersions from plant control areas, inability to control vegetation loss, loss of diverse plant communities and their dependent species, and conflicts with human use of the water resource. Adequate knowledge existed to assess most potential consequences of releasing large numbers of triploid grass carp in Guntersville Reservoir, Alabama. However, the assessment of potential impacts indicated that moderate, incremental stockings combined with monitoring of vegetation and biological resources are necessary to control the effects of grass carp and achieve desirable, intermediate plant densities.

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Cooperators: Auburn University (Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures, Department of Zoology and Wildlife Sciences), US Fish and Wildlife Service, Alabama Game and Fish Division, and the Wildlife Management Institute.

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Bain, M.B. Assessing impacts of introduced aquatic species: Grass carp in large systems. Environmental Management 17, 211–224 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02394691

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Key words

  • Introduced species
  • Exotic fish
  • Impact assessment
  • Grass carp
  • Biocontrol
  • Water resources
  • Aquatic plants