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Characterizing ballast water as a vector for nonindigenous zooplankton transport Humphrey, Donald B.

Abstract

The global movement of aquatic non-indigenous species can have severe ecological, environmental and economic impacts emphasizing the need to identify potential invaders and transport pathways. Initial transport is arguably the most important stage of the invasion process owing to its role in selectively determining potential invasion candidates. This study characterizes a well defined human-mediated dispersal mechanism, ballast water transport, as a vector for the introduction of non-indigenous zooplankton. Ballast water exchange in the open ocean is the most widely adopted practice for reducing the threat of aquatic invasions and is mandatory for most foreign vessels intending to release ballast in Canadian waters. Ships entering Canadian ports are categorized into the following three shipping classes based on current regulations: overseas vessels carrying exchanged ballast water, intra-coastal vessels carrying exchanged ballast water or intra-coastal vessels carrying un-exchanged ballast water. This study characterizes zooplankton communities associated with each of these shipping classes sampled from ports on Canada’s Pacific coast, Atlantic coast and the Great Lakes Basin. Ballast water samples were collected and analyzed from 77 vessels between 2006 - 2007. The ballast water environment was found to be diverse, with over 193 zooplankton taxa, 71 of which were non-indigenous to their receiving environments. Intracoastal vessels containing un-exchanged coastal water transported the greatest density of non-indigenous zooplankton into Canadian ports. Total zooplankton density was found to be negatively correlated with ballast water age The absence of mandatory ballast water exchange and the younger ballast water age of coastal un-exchanged vessels is likely responsible for the higher density of non-indigenous zooplankton in intracoastal un-exchanged vessels. Propagule pressure, invasion history and environmental suitability are all useful in evaluating invasion potential and all suggest that intracoastal un-exchanged vessels pose the greatest invasion threat to Canadian aquatic ecosystems. In conclusion, although the risk of primary introductions from overseas ports may have been reduced through open-ocean exchange of ballast water, secondary introductions from previously invaded ports in North America may be the primary threat to Canadian aquatic ecosystems via this transport vector.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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