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Aquatic invasive species in the Chesapeake Bay drainage—Research-based needs and priorities of U.S. Geological Survey partners and collaborators

July 16, 2020

Executive Summary

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is revising the Chesapeake Bay-based science plan to align it with recent U.S. Department of Interior and USGS science priorities that include, as stated in the plan, providing “an integrated understanding of the factors affecting fish habitat, fish health, and landscape conditions” in Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. A report of partner agencies’ needs and priorities related to aquatic invasive species (AIS) science was identified as an informational gap; a report would help to further development of the science program related to aquatic animal health and habitat. This objective was addressed through review of pertinent documentation and conversations with representatives of State, Federal, and regional agencies with vested interests in AIS management in Chesapeake Bay and the Chesapeake Bay drainage area, and this document was produced to summarize the related findings.

All agencies and organizations (13) reported that AIS are of general concern, with most stakeholder groups reporting AIS-related issues to be of high priority, including invasive fishes and invertebrates, invasive plants, and microbes including aquatic animal pathogens.

  • Invasive fishes are of great concern to all partner agencies. Channa argus (northern snakehead) and Ictalurus furcatus (blue catfish) are high priority and represent the two most named AIS of concern for these agencies. Nine of 10 stakeholder groups listed northern snakehead as a high priority species, and 6 listed blue catfish as a high priority species as well. Pylodictis olivaris (flathead catfish), invasive crayfish species, and dressenid mussels were also prioritized by multiple partner groups, each receiving specific mention by at least 3 of the 10 stakeholder groups in discussions or documents. Invasive carp, such as Hypophthalmichthys molatrix (silver carp), also received mention by multiple agencies (3 of the 10 stakeholder groups) because these fish represent priority AIS in nearby watersheds and a threat for introduction and dissemination within the Chesapeake Bay watershed from these neighboring regions.
  • Invasive plants are among priority species, and Hydrilla verticillata (hydrilla) topped the list. Hydrilla was reported as a priority species by 5 of the stakeholder groups queried. Trapa natans and T. bispinosa (water chestnut), Phragmites australis (common reed), and Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife) were also among the aquatic invasive plants that were prioritized by multiple partner agencies.
  • Multiple stakeholder groups (5 of the 10 groups) also considered Didymosphenia geminata (didymo) and various aquatic animal pathogens among their priority AIS for management considerations.

Science needs that were recurrently indicated by stakeholders to support management of invasive species include

  • Technology to enhance biosurveillance capability, such as reliable environmental DNA based detection methodology;
  • Risk assessment modeling to forewarn of and prioritize AIS-related threats;
  • Increased information and intervention methods related to vectors and pathways of AIS introductions;
  • Increased information about the biology and life history of AIS, including information related to trophic interactions, health and disease, and distribution and abundance; and
  • Potential applications of mitigation strategies, including genetically based biocontrol mechanisms.

Potential next steps to address the science needs include

  • Development of biosurveillance and risk assessment tools for identification of AIS in proactive management;
  • Development of proactive management techniques to prevent AIS introductions through recognized vectors and pathways;
  • Development of interagency biosurveillance programs to best utilize personnel, funds, and other resources among interested agencies and organizations;
  • Investigations to address life history, consequences, and movement/dissemination of top priority invasive species in the region;
  • Investigations to determine the potential for novel mitigation technologies, such as the application of synthetic biological (genetic) control methods; and
  • Investigations with focus on emerging and high priority AIS in the region, including fishes (blue catfish, flathead catfish, northern snakehead), invertebrates (invasive crayfish and mollusks) and plants (hydrilla, water chestnut, phragmites).
Publication Year 2020
Title Aquatic invasive species in the Chesapeake Bay drainage—Research-based needs and priorities of U.S. Geological Survey partners and collaborators
DOI 10.3133/ofr20201057
Authors Christine L. Densmore
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2020-1057
Index ID ofr20201057
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Leetown Science Center; Eastern Ecological Science Center