Grass carp in the Great Lakes region: establishment potential, expert perceptions, and re-evaluation of experimental evidence of ecological impact.
Intentional introductions of nonindigenous fishes are increasing globally. While benefits of these introductions are easily quantified, assessments to understand the negative impacts to ecosystems are often difficult, incomplete, or absent. Grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) was originally introduced to the United States as a biocontrol agent, and recent observations of wild, diploid individuals in the Great Lakes basin have spurred interest in re-evaluating its ecological risk. Here, we evaluate the ecological impact of grass carp using expert opinion and a suite of the most up-to-date analytical tools and data (ploidy assessment, eDNA surveillance, species distribution models (SDMs), and meta-analysis). The perceived ecological impact of grass carp by fisheries experts was variable, ranging from unknown to very high. Wild-caught triploid and diploid individuals occurred in multiple Great Lakes waterways, and eDNA surveillance suggests that grass carp are abundant in a major tributary of Lake Michigan. SDMs predicted suitable grass carp climate occurs in all Great Lakes. Meta-analysis showed that grass carp introductions impact both water quality and biota. Novel findings based on updated ecological impact assessment tools indicate that iterative risk assessment of introduced fishes may be warranted.