Predicting the Identity, Spread, and Impact of Future Non-indigenous Species in the Great Lakes

EPA Grant Number: R828899
Title: Predicting the Identity, Spread, and Impact of Future Non-indigenous Species in the Great Lakes
Investigators: Lodge, David M. , Dwyer, Greg
Institution: University of Notre Dame , University of Chicago
Current Institution: University of Notre Dame , University of Chicago , University of Notre Dame
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: July 5, 2001 through July 4, 2004 (Extended to July 4, 2005)
Project Amount: $450,000
RFA: Exploratory Research to Anticipate Future Environmental Issues (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Ecosystems , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


Alien or non-indigenous species (NIS) constitute the largest and most irreversible environmental change in many terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of the U.S. In this project, we will develop novel approaches to predict the identity and environmental impact of future invaders in the Laurentian Great Lakes, especially those brought by ships. To accomplish this, we will examine the characteristics of species that affect their performance in early stages of the invasion sequence (being transported alive, establishing a self-sustaining population, and spreading beyond the initial point of establishment). Our goal is to anticipate future invasions, and therefore to redirect attention from established NIS toward prevention of new NIS. We focus on the Great Lakes for two reasons. First, their high value to transportation, fishing, and recreation are threatened by NIS. Second, their well documented history of invasions provides a strong scientific foundation on which we build. We focus on the ship pathway because it is currently the most important pathway of NIS into the Great Lakes.


We will develop an assessment for the risks associated with each step of the invasion sequence (transport, establishment, spread, impact). First, we will measure the identity and numbers of organisms in and on ships, directly addressing the transport of live NIS. Second, we will use the mathematical theory of Population Viability Analysis to relate the probability of establishment of a species to the number and frequency with which individuals are released from ships. Third, we will predict the identity of future NIS, and estimate the probability of their spread and ecological impact by using statistical models of past NIS. We will then use those models to screen species that are likely to be transported to the Great Lakes from the Ponto-Caspian region of Eurasia.

Expected Results:

We will provide quantitative risk assessments for NIS released from ships. We anticipate deriving rule-of-thumb results that will relate the probability of establishment to the number of organisms released for different taxonomic groups (e.g., phytoplankton, zooplankton, macrophytes, molluscs, other benthic organisms, and fishes). For subsequent invasion stages, we will generate predictions based on our on-going successful statistical modeling of Great Lakes fish invasions. We will publish results in scientific journals, and also publish easy-to-understand decision trees in less technical trade magazines that are widely read by natural resource managers and policy makers. These results will inform the development of effluent standards for ballast. Finally, our project will provide proof-of-concept applications of PVA and statistical modeling that could then be applied in other ecosystems.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 48 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 18 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

watersheds, effluent, discharge, restoration, pollution prevention, public policy, conservation, biology, ecology, limnology, Midwest, transportation., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Water & Watershed, Monitoring/Modeling, Habitat, Ecological Risk Assessment, Exp. Research/future, Great Lakes, Watersheds, Futures, population dynamics, population variability analysis, habitat dynamics, biodiversity, biopollution, marine ecology, phytoplankton, aquatic ecosytems, habitat disturbance, exploratory research, statistical modeling, ecological pollutants, non-indigenous species, aquatic ecosystems, invasive species, ecological dynamics, irreversible environmental change, ship pathways

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2002 Progress Report
  • 2003 Progress Report
  • 2004 Progress Report
  • Final Report