Forecasting the Spread of Invasive Rainbow Smelt in the Laurentian Great Lakes Region of North America

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Rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) have invaded many North American lakes, often resulting in the extirpation of native fish populations. Yet, their invasion is incipient and provides the rationale for identifying ecosystems likely to be invaded and where management and prevention efforts should be focused. To predict smelt presence and absence, we constructed a classification-tree model based on habitat data from 354 lakes in the native range for smelt in southern Maine. Maximum lake depth, lake area, and Secchi depth (surrogate measure of lake productivity) were the most important predictors. We then used our model to identify lakes vulnerable to invasion in three regions outside the smelt's native range: northern Maine (52 of 244 lakes in the non-native range), Ontario (4447 of 8110), and Wisconsin (553 of 5164). We further identified a subset of lakes with a strong potential for impact (potential–impact lakes) based on the presence of fish species that are affected by rainbow smelt. Ninety-four percent of vulnerable lakes in the non-native range in Maine are also potential–impact lakes, as are 94% and 58% of Ontario and Wisconsin's vulnerable lakes, respectively. Our modeling approach can be applied to other invaders and regions to identify invasion-prone ecosystems, thus aiding in the management of invasive species and the efficient allocation of invasive species mitigation and prevention resources.

Keywords: Osmerus mordax; classification trees; especies invasoras; especies no nativas; inland lakes; invasive species; lagos interiores; nonindigenous species; prediction; pronóstico; árboles de clasificación

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 680 N. Park Street, Madison, WI 53706, U.S.A. 2: Biology Department, University of Minnesota Duluth, 211 Life Science, University of Minnesota Duluth, 1110 Kirby Drive, Duluth, MN 55812, U.S.A.

Publication date: December 1, 2006

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