Alien aquatics in Europe: assessing the relative environmental and socio-economic impacts of invasive aquatic macroinvertebrates and other taxa.
Invasive alien aquatic species, including marine and freshwater macroinvertebrates, have become increasingly important in terms of both environmental and socio-economic impacts. In order to assess their environmental and economic costs, we applied the Generic Impact Scoring System (GISS) and performed a comparison with other taxa of invaders in Europe. Impacts were scored into six environmental and six socio-economic categories, with each category containing five impact levels. Among 49 aquatic macroinvertebrates, the most impacting species were the Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis (Milne-Edwards, 1853) and the zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha (Pallas, 1771). The highest impacts found per GISS impact category were, separately; on ecosystems, through predation, as competitors, and on animal production. Eleven species have an impact score >10 (high impact) and seven reach impact level 5 in at least one impact category (EU blacklist candidates), the maximum score that can be given is 60 impact points. Comparisons were drawn between aquatic macroinvertebrates and vertebrate invaders such as fish, mammals and birds, as well as terrestrial arthropods, revealing invasive freshwater macroinvertebrates to be voracious predators of native prey and damaging to native ecosystems compared with other taxa. GISS can be used to compare these taxa and will aid policy making and targeting of invasive species for management by relevant agencies, or to assist in producing species blacklist candidates.