Prioritisation of aquatic invasive alien plants in South America with the US Aquatic Weed Risk Assessment.
Forty South American aquatic plant species were selected and categorised in four a priori status classes (alien naturalised, alien invasive, native and absent) according to expert opinion, for 16 South American regions (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Falklands Islands, French Guiana, Galapagos, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela). The 40 aquatic plant species were assessed using the US Aquatic Weed Risk Assessment (USAqWRA) scheme for each of the 16 South American regions, for a total number of 644 assessments and for South America (153 assessments). The method was benchmarked against expert opinion (invasive, non-invasive). We ranked 17 of them as naturalised, and 15 as invasive species in at least one South American region. The USAqWRA distinguished between non-invaders and invaders with an overall accuracy of 84.9% in South America and 54.1% in the 16 regions, with areas under the curves equal to 0.893 and 0.853, at a threshold score of 51.5 and 43.5, respectively. The study highlights that the USAqWRA could represent a suitable screening protocol to prioritise aquatic species that have the potential to cause negative impacts, prevent attempts of introduction and to manage risky aquatic plants in South America.