Skip to main content
Log in

Boats, Pathways, and Aquatic Biological Invasions: Estimating Dispersal Potential with Gravity Models

Biological Invasions Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Cite this article


Biological invaders can have dramatic effects on the environment and the economy. To most effectively manage these invaders, we should consider entire pathways, because multiple species are dispersed through the same vectors. In this paper, we use production-constrained gravity models to describe movement of recreational boaters between lakes – potentially the most important pathway of overland dispersal for many aquatic organisms. These models are advantageous because they require relatively easily acquired data, hence are relatively easy to build. We compare linear and non-linear gravity models and show that, despite their simplicity, they are able to capture important characteristics of the recreational boater pathway. To assess our model, we compared observed data based on creel surveys and mailed surveys of recreation boaters to the model output. Specifically, we evaluate four metrics of pathway characteristics: boater traffic to individual lakes, distances traveled to reach these lakes, Great Lakes usage and movement from the Great Lakes to inland waters. These factors will influence the propagule pressure (hence the probability of establishment of invasive populations) and the rate of spread across a landscape. The Great Lakes are of particular importance because they are a major entry point of non-indigenous species from other continents, hence will act as the origin for further spread across states. The non-linear model had the best fit between model output and empirical observations with r 2 =0.80, r 2 =0.35, r 2 =0.57, and r 2 =0.36 for the four metrics, respectively. For the distances traveled to individual lakes, r 2 improved from 0.35 to 0.76 after removal of an outlier. Our results suggest that we were able to capture distances traveled to most but not all lakes. Thus, we demonstrate that production-constrained gravity models will be generally useful for modeling invasion pathways between non-contiguous locations.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Institutional subscriptions


  • JM Bossenbroek (1999) Modeling the dispersal of Dreissena polymorpha (zebra mussel) into the inland lakes of the western Great Lakes region using a gravity model University of Wisconsin – Green Bay Green Bay, WI

    Google Scholar 

  • JM Bossenbroek CE Kraft JC Nekola (2001) ArticleTitlePrediction of long-distance dispersal using gravity models: zebra mussel invasion of inland lakes Ecological Applications 11 1778–1788

    Google Scholar 

  • LAJ Buchan DK Padilla (1999) ArticleTitleEstimating the probability of long-distance overland dispersal of invading aquatic species Ecological Applications 9 254–265

    Google Scholar 

  • JT Carlton JB Geller (1993) ArticleTitleEcological roulette – the global transport of nonindigenous marine organisms Science 261 78–82

    Google Scholar 

  • J Figuerola AJ Green L Santamaria (2003) ArticleTitlePassive internal transport of aquatic organisms by waterfowl in Donana, south-west Spain Global Ecology and Biogeography 12 427–436 Occurrence Handle10.1046/j.1466-822X.2003.00043.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • PDN Hebert BW Muncaster GL Mackie (1989) ArticleTitleEcological and genetic-studies on Dreissena polymorpha (Pallas) – a new mollusk in the Great-Lakes Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 46 1587–1591

    Google Scholar 

  • R Hilborn M Mangel (1997) The Ecological Detective: Confronting Models With Data Princeton University Press Princeton, NJ

    Google Scholar 

  • LE Johnson A Ricciardi JT Carlton (2001) ArticleTitleOverland dispersal of aquatic invasive species: a risk assessment of transient recreational boating Ecological Applications 11 1789–1799

    Google Scholar 

  • CS Kolar DM Lodge (2001) ArticleTitleProgress in invasion biology: predicting invaders Trends in Ecology and Evolution 16 199–204 Occurrence Handle11245943

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • CE Kraft LE Johnson (2000) ArticleTitleRegional differences in rates and patterns of North American inland lake invasions by zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 57 993–1001 Occurrence Handle10.1139/cjfas-57-5-993

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lockwood RN (2000) Sportfishing angler surveys on Michigan inland waters: Fisheries Technical Report 2000-3. Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Lansing, MI

  • DM Lodge (2001) Lakes FS Chapin SuffixIII OE Sala E Huber-Sannwald (Eds) Global Biodiversity in a Changing Environment: Scenarios for the 21st Century Springer-Verlag New York 277–313

    Google Scholar 

  • MacIsaac HJ, Borbely J, Muirhead J and Graniero P (in press) Backcasting and forecasting biological invasions of inland lakes. Ecological Applications

  • HJ MacIsaac TC Robbins MA Lewis (2002) ArticleTitle‘Biological invasions of aquatic habitats in Europe and the Great Lakes’. Modeling ships’ ballast water as invasion threats to the Great Lakes Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 59 1245–1256 Occurrence Handle10.1139/f02-090

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Penaloza LJ (1991) Boating pressure on Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers: Results of the 1989–1990 Wisconsin recreational boating study, Phase 1. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI

  • D Pimentel L Lach R Zuniga D Morrison (2000) ArticleTitleEnvironmental and economic costs of nonindigenous species in the United States Bioscience 50 53–65

    Google Scholar 

  • CW Ramcharan DK Padilla SI Dodson (1992) ArticleTitleModels to Predict Potential Occurrence and Density of the Zebra Mussel, Dreissena-Polymorpha Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 49 2611–2620 Occurrence Handle10.1139/f92-289

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • T Reed-Andersen EM Bennett BS Jorgensen G Lauster DB Lewis D Nowacek JL Riera BL Sanderson R Stedman (2000) ArticleTitleDistribution of recreational boating across lakes: do landscape variables affect recreational use? Freshwater Biology 43 439–448 Occurrence Handle10.1046/j.1365-2427.2000.00511.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • OE Sala FS Chapin JJ Armesto E Berlow J Bloomfield R Dirzo E Huber-Sanwald LF Huenneke RB Jackson A Kinzig R Leemans DM Lodge HA Mooney M Oesterheld NL Poff MT Sykes BH Walker M Walker DH Wall (2000) ArticleTitleBiodiversity – global biodiversity scenarios for the year 2100 Science 287 1770–1774 Occurrence Handle10710299 Occurrence Handle10.1126/science.287.5459.1770 Occurrence Handle1:CAS:528:DC%2BD3cXhvVWltLk%3D

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • DW Schneider CD Ellis KS. Cummings (1998) ArticleTitleA transportation model assessment of the risk to native mussel communities from zebra mussel spread Conservation Biology 12 788–800 Occurrence Handle10.1046/j.1523-1739.1998.97042.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thomas RW and Hugget RJ. (1980) Modeling in Geography. Barnes Owa, New Jersey.

  • G Viviansmith EW Stiles (1994) ArticleTitleDispersal of salt-marsh seeds on the feet and feathers of waterfowl Wetlands 14 316–319

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Brian Leung.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Leung, B., Bossenbroek, J.M. & Lodge, D.M. Boats, Pathways, and Aquatic Biological Invasions: Estimating Dispersal Potential with Gravity Models. Biol Invasions 8, 241–254 (2006).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: