We tested the accuracy of an invasive aquatic plant risk assessment system in the United States that we modified from a system originally developed by New Zealand’s Biosecurity Program. The US system is comprised of 38 questions that address biological, historical, and environmental tolerance traits. Values associated with each response are summed to produce a total score for each species that indicates its risk of invasion. To calibrate and test this risk assessment, we identified 39 aquatic plant species that are major invaders in the continental US, 31 species that have naturalized but have no documented impacts (minor invaders), and 60 that have been introduced but have not established. These species represent 55 families and span all aquatic plant growth forms. We found sufficient information to assess all but three of these species. When the results are compared to the known invasiveness of the species, major invaders are distinguished from minor and non-invaders with 91% accuracy. Using this approach, the US aquatic weed risk assessment correctly identifies major invaders 85%, and non-invaders 98%, of the time. Model validation using an additional 10 non-invaders and 10 invaders resulted in 100% accuracy for the former, and 80% accuracy for the latter group. Accuracy was further improved to an average of 91% for all groups when the 17% of species with scores of 31–39 required further evaluation prior to risk classification. The high accuracy with which we can distinguish non-invaders from harmful invaders suggests that this tool provides a feasible, pro-active system for pre-import screening of aquatic plants in the US, and may have additional utility for prioritizing management efforts of established species.
Gordon DR, Gantz CA, Jerde CL, Chadderton WL, Keller RP, Champion PD (2012) Weed Risk Assessment for Aquatic Plants: Modification of a New Zealand System for the United States. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40031. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040031
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