Taxon- and vector-specific variation in species richness and abundance during the transport stage of biological invasions

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Limnology and Oceanography





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Recent empirical and statistical evidence suggest that propagule pressure (i.e., number of individuals introduced per event, and the number and frequency of events) and colonization pressure (i.e., number of species released per event, and the number and frequency of events) are of vital importance to invasion success. To explore possible changes in propagule and colonization pressure during the transport stage of the invasion process, we examine abundance and species richness of virus-like particles, bacteria, diatoms, dinoflagellates, and invertebrates transported in commercial ships-a leading vector for global spread of aquatic nonindigenous species. We collected 154 ballast water samples from ships that had performed or were exempt from ballast water exchange (BWE) prior to arrival at Pacific and Atlantic ports in Canada and Laurentian Great Lakes ports. We found that abundance and species richness varied across taxa and regions, with ships arriving to the Atlantic region carrying the highest abundance of taxa. The highest species richness of invertebrates and diatoms was recorded from ships arriving to the Pacific, whereas the richest communities of dinoflagellates occurred in the Atlantic region. We also found that BWE had no effect on abundance or species richness of most taxa (dinoflagellates, diatoms, bacteria, and virus-like particles), whereas the effect on abundance of invertebrates was not clear. Finally, longer voyages resulted in lower abundance of all taxa except dinoflagellates, and lower species richness of diatoms. Paradoxically, the elevated abundance and species richness of dinoflagellates following BWE suggest that this group could have enhanced invasion potential when ships manage ballast water by exchange. © 2013, by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, Inc.