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Domestic ballast operations on the Great Lakes: potential importance of Lakers as a vector for introduction and spread of nonindigenous species

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Ballast water is recognized globally as a major vector of aquatic nonindigenous species (NIS) introductions; domestic ballast water transfers, however, have generally been considered low risk in North America. We characterize ballast operations of domestic ships in the Great Lakes– St. Lawrence River system (Lakers) during 2005–2007 to examine the risk of primary and secondary introductions associated with ballast water transfers over short distances. Results indicate that Lakers transported at least 68 million tonnes of ballast water annually. Approximately 71% of ballast water transfers were interregional, with net movement being from lower to upper lakes. A small proportion of ballast water discharged in the Great Lakes (<1%) originated from ports in the St. Lawrence River that may serve as sources for new NIS. These results indicate that domestic ballast water transfers may contribute to NIS introductions and are likely the most important ballast-mediated pathway of secondary spread within the Great Lakes. Future efforts to reduce invasion impacts should consider both primary and secondary introduction mechanisms.

L’eau de ballastage est reconnue à l’échelle planétaire comme un vecteur primordial d’introduction d’espèces non indigènes (NIS) aquatiques; cependant, on considère généralement que les transferts locaux d’eau de ballastage présentent peu de risques en Amérique du Nord. Nous décrivons les opérations de ballastage des navires domestiques du système Grands-Lacs– Saint-Laurent (cargos hors mer) en 2005–2007 afin d’évaluer le risque d’introductions primaires et secondaires associées aux transferts d’eau de ballastage sur de courtes distances. Nos résultats indiquent que les cargos hors mer transportent au moins 68 millions de tonnes d’eau de ballastage chaque année. Environ 71% des transferts d’eau de ballastage se font entre des régions, le déplacement net ayant lieu entre les lacs d’aval vers les lacs d’amont. Une petite proportion (<1%) de l’eau de ballastage déchargée dans les Grands Lacs provient de ports sur le Saint-Laurent et peut servir de source de nouvelles NIS. Ces résultats indiquent que les transferts locaux d’eau de ballastage peuvent contribuer aux introductions de NIS et constituent vraisemblablement la voie prédominante de dispersion secondaire associée à l’eau de ballastage dans les Grands Lacs. Les efforts futurs de réduction des impacts des invasions devraient tenir compte à la fois des mécanismes primaires et secondaires d’introduction.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2010

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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