A history of ship specialization and consequences for marine invasions, management and policy.

Published online
20 Feb 2019
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Davidson, I. C. & Scianni, C. & Minton, M. S. & Ruiz, G. M.
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Propagule pressure plays a key role in the successful establishment of introduced species. Explaining invasion patterns, predicting future invasions and reducing invasion rates are priority areas of research and management, especially in marine systems, which need more detailed correlates and invasion predictors. The commercial maritime shipping fleet is the most prolific long distance anthropogenic transfer mechanism (vector) of marine non-indigenous species on a global scale, causing invasions of coasts by a wide diversity of organisms. Although most vessel arrivals provide an opportunity for organism introductions, there are often substantial differences among ship types - in both their "morphological traits" (structural design) and "behavioural ecology" (cargo delivery model and operational tempo) - that influence propagule delivery by ballast water and biofouling, the two dominant sources or sub-vectors for ship-mediated species transfers. We reviewed ship specialization and its implications for marine invasion and vector management. First, we identified factors that affect ship-mediated propagule delivery characteristics (number, identity, diversity and quality/condition), classifying these as ship type independent or dependent factors. Second, we compared the relevance of these factors for both ballast water and biofouling. Third, we estimated and compared the magnitude of several key factors affecting propagule delivery among seven major ship types. Typical voyage speed varies by 74% and port residence time varies sixfold among ship types. Similarly, typical ballast water discharge varies by an order of magnitude among ship types. These and other ship type dependent factors affect propagule delivery characteristics, resulting in uneven magnitude of species transfer among ship types. Policy implications. Variation among commercial ship types is rarely integrated into analyses of marine bioinvasions and proxy measures of propagule delivery. Their inclusion may lead to more robust explanation, prediction and management of marine invasions. Risk analyses that account for differences among ship types and prevailing traffic directionality will likely offer greater insight than null models, which treat ships equally. Furthermore, ballast treatment technologies and hull husbandry may advance to reduce species transfers more effectively when tailored for different ship types, recognizing the variation and operational constraints (that affect propagule delivery) among the diverse range of ship types.

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