Salinity tolerance of Great Lakes invaders

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Freshwater Biology





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1. The Laurentian Great Lakes are among the most invaded freshwater ecosystems in the world. Historically, the major vector for the introduction of non-indigenous species (NIS) has been the release of contaminated ballast water via transoceanic ships. Despite regulations implemented in 1993, requiring vessels carrying fresh ballast water to exchange this water with saline ocean water, new reports of invasions have continued. 2. NIS often have a wide environmental tolerance allowing them to adapt to and invade a variety of habitats. It has been hypothesized that NIS with broad salinity tolerance may be able to survive ballast water exchange (BWE) and continue to pose an invasion risk to the Great Lakes. 3. We tested the short-term salinity tolerance of eight recent invaders to the Great Lakes, specifically three cladocera (Bosmina coregoni, Bythotrephes longimanus, Cercopagis pengoi), two molluscs (Dreissena polymorpha, Dreissena rostriformis bugensis), and one species each of the families Gammaridae, Mysidae and Gobidae (Echinogammarus ischnus, Hemimysis anomala, Neogobius melanostomus) to determine if they could have survived salinities associated with BWE. 4. Overall, short-term exposure to highly saline water dramatically reduced survival of all species. Two different methods of BWE tested, simultaneous and sequential, were equally effective in reducing survival. Species that survived the longest in highly saline water either possess behavioural characteristics that reduce exposure to adverse environments (valve closure; both Dreissena species) or are reported to have some degree of salinity tolerance in their native region (Echinogammarus). Given that exposure in our trials lasted a maximum of 48 h, and that species in ballast tanks would typically be exposed to saline water for c. 5 days, it appears that BWE is an effective method to reduce the survival of these NIS. These results provide impetus for tightening policy and monitoring of BWE, in particular for ships entering the Great Lakes from freshwater ports. © 2008 The Authors.