Domestic ships as a potential pathway of nonindigenous species from the Saint Lawrence River to the Great Lakes

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Biological Invasions





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Ballast water moved by transoceanic vessels has been recognized globally as a predominant vector for the introduction of aquatic nonindigenous species (NIS). In contrast, domestic ships operating within confined geographic areas have been viewed as low risk for invasions, and are exempt from regulation in consequence. We examined if the St. Lawrence River could serve as a source of NIS for the Laurentian Great Lakes by surveying ballast water carried by domestic vessels and comparing biological composition in predominant St. Lawrence River-Great Lakes port-pairs in order to determine the likelihood that NIS could be transported to, and survive in, the Great Lakes. Thirteen potential invaders were sampled from ballast water, while 26 taxa sampled from St. Lawrence River ports are not reported from the Great Lakes. The majority of NIS recorded in samples are marine species with low potential for survival in the Great Lakes, however two euryhaline species (copepod Oithona similis, and amphipod Gammarus palustris) and two taxa reported from brackish waters (copepod Microsetella norvegica and decapod Cancer irroratus) may pose a risk for invasion. In addition, four marine NIS were collected in freshwater samples indicating that at least a subset of marine species have potential as new invaders to the Great Lakes. Based on results from this study, the ports of Montreal, Sorel, Tracy and Trois Rivières appear to pose the highest risk for new ballast-mediated NIS from the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.