Establishment patterns of non-native fishes: lessons from the Duluth-Superior harbor and lower St. Louis River, an invasion-prone Great Lakes coastal ecosystem.
We conducted a 2-year, multi-gear survey in the lower St. Louis River, which includes the Duluth-Superior harbor, an international shipping port and non-native species invasion "hotspot." Our objectives were to quantify the contribution of non-native species to the overall fish assemblage and assess their spatial distribution and abundance. We captured 10 non-native fishes; none, however, were first detections. Non-native fishes composed roughly one quarter of the total species richness, were found in 84% of samples, and composed 15% of the total abundance. The spatial distribution and abundance of non-native fishes was dependent on gear selection (and thereby habitat selection), sampling location, and abundance measure (individuals or biomass). We used a recently published non-native species establishment framework to integrate catch data from the different gears. Viewed in the context of this framework, we identified only two non-native fishes, Eurasian ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernuus) and round goby (Neogobius melanostomus), as both widespread and abundant, whereas we identified three as localized and rare. Moreover, the time since first detection of non-native fishes was not predictive of their frequency of occurrence across the study area, underscoring the importance of environmental and biological factors in controlling fish establishment success. Although non-native fishes constitute a considerable portion of the trawl catch in the river channel, from a multi-gear system-wide perspective, native fishes collectively make up the majority of the fish biomass and abundance in the lower St. Louis River.