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Keywords:

  • Alien species;
  • benthic invertebrates;
  • distance;
  • physico-chemical degradation;
  • temperature

Abstract

The aim of this study was to assess the invasion risk of freshwater habitats and determine the environmental variables that are most favorable for the establishment of alien amphipods, isopods, gastropods, and bivalves. A total of 981 sites located in streams and rivers in Germany. Therefore we analyzed presence–absence data of alien and indigenous amphipods, isopods, gastropods, and bivalves from 981 sites located in small to large rivers in Germany with regard to eight environmental variables: chloride, ammonium, nitrate, oxygen, orthophosphate, distance to the next navigable waterway, and maximum and minimum temperature. Degraded sites close to navigable waters were exposed to an increased invasion risk by all major groups of alien species. Moreover, invaded sites by all four groups of alien species were similar, whereas the sites where indigenous members of the four groups occurred were more variable. Increased temperature and chloride concentration as well as decreased oxygen concentration were identified as major factors for the invasibility of a site. Species-specific analyses showed that chloride was among the three most predictive environmental variables determining species assemblage in all four taxonomic groups. Also distance to the next navigable waterways was similarly important. Additionally, the minimum temperature was among the most important variables for amphipods, isopods, and bivalves. The bias in the occurrence patterns of alien species toward similarly degraded habitats suggests that the members of all four major groups of freshwater alien species are a non-random, more tolerant set of species. Their common tolerance to salinity, high temperature, and oxygen depletion may reflect that most alien species were spread in ballast water tanks, where strong selective pressures, particularly temperature fluctuations, oxygen depletion, and increased salinity may create a bottleneck for successful invasion. Knowledge on the major factors that influence the invasion risk of a habitat is needed to develop strategies to limit the spread of invasive species.