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NCCOS Project

Forecasting the Spread and Bioeconomic Impacts of Invasive Species in the Great Lakes

This project began in September 2009 and was completed in August 2015

We are developing predictions of the arrival and economic impact of non-native aquatic invasive species to better respond to current invasions and prevent future invasions. We are combining scientific, economic, and risk analysis, along with management expertise, to increase forecasting capabilities for both the ecological and economic impact of current and future species invasions. Our goal is to develop cost-effective management of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes.

Why We Care
Without forecasts of the biological and economic impacts of the arrival of nonindigenous species, natural resource management cannot cost effectively respond to current invasions or prevent future invasions. The many established invasive species have caused great damage in the Great Lakes. It has been estimated that dreissinid (zebra and quagga) mussels have cost the power industry over $3.1 billion between 1993 and 1999. Dreissinid mussels have also caused major disruption of food chains leading to the decline of important salmon fisheries in both Lakes Michigan and Huron.

In the context of ongoing management and policy discussions, it is critical to forecast species invasions and their costs, and to predict the effectiveness and costs of potential management responses to these invasions. Forecasts can help identify those areas that are more vulnerable to invasion which will in turn help resource managers monitor more effectively and prevention new invasions. Knowing the potential costs of invasions, will also help managers evaluate the value of strategies to prevent, eradicate, or control new invaders against the cost of doing nothing.

What We Are Doing
We are integrating ecology and economics at the landscape scale to provide forecasts of the impact of invasive species on the Great Lakes ecosystem goods and services. In collaboration with management agencies and regional leaders, we are forecasting a range of scenarios to inform management about choices for developing cost effective prevention, “early detection and rapid response,” “slow-the-spread,” and other control strategies for aquatic invasive species.

Our three major goals are to:

  1. forecast regional economic impacts by linking food web models to a Great Lakes regional economic model to value ecosystem goods and services affected by invasive species;
  2. use the linked ecological and economic models to evaluate alternative management strategies with cost-benefit analyses in collaboration with management partners throughout the project; and
  3. forecast ecological impacts of aquatic invasive species using two general approaches: statistical and computational models based on species; and food web modeling to develop quantitative scenarios of ecological impacts.

This project is part of the Regional Ecosystem Prediction Program. The project is led by Dr. David Lodge of the University of Norte Dame.  Project partners include Lindsay Chadderton, The Nature Conservancy; Richard Jensen, University of Notre Dame; Edward Rutherford, NOAA; Dmitry Beletsky, University of Michigan; John Drake, University of Georgia; David Finnoff, University of Wyoming; Jonathan Bossenbroek, University of Toledo; Roger Cooke, Resources for the Future. The project funding is shared in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes National Program Office through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Benefits of Our Work
By integrating ecology and economics at the landscape scale, we will be able to communicate forecasts in terms of aquatic invasive species introduction pathways, which are the most appropriate targets for cost effective management, especially in preventing new invasions.

GIS maps showing the location of where new invaders can become established are being used by managers of Great Lakes states to identify key sites that should be used to ensure that monitoring programs can be successful in finding new invaders at the earliest stage of an invasion.

Next Step
Alternative management or policy choices will be presented in environmental as well as dollar units, which are critical to inform decisions that must always be made in the context of limited budgets. Focusing on all five Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario), we will produce and make freely available more accurate and precise sets of Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping layers and ecological classifications than are currently available; these will be useful for many other researchers, agencies, non-government organizations and policy makers for aquatic invasive species applications and many other issues.

2020 Project Update: Case Study Explores Best Practices to Link Science and Management. The project, testing an innovative project management approach for improving the links between research findings and management actions, has published the results as a case study. Crucial to success is a management advisory board linking scientists and the management entity. The case study findings can potentially improve outcomes for science, management and policy interactions concerning difficult environmental problems. The case study is published in the journal Fisheries.

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