Ensemble forecasting of the global potential distribution of the invasive Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis.
Invasive alien species have posed substantial threats to freshwater ecosystems and are generally difficult and cost-intensive to eradicate once established. Therefore, it is of great importance to identify their potential distribution and take preventive actions. Species distribution modelling has been regarded as a powerful tool to identify areas that provide suitable environmental conditions for the establishment of invaders. In this study, an ensemble species distribution model was developed for the Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis), by using 188 worldwide occurrence records and 11 environmental variables to predict its global potential distribution in freshwater habitats. The ensemble model showed high predictive performance and indicated that annual mean temperature was the most important environmental variable that limits the distribution of this invasive crustacean. The model successfully predicted the known distribution of Chinese mitten crab in its native range and invasive ranges and suggested that this invader has not yet fully realized its potential distribution in Europe and North America. The model also predicted some additional suitable areas where this crab has not yet been observed (Japan, part of South America, Australia, and New Zealand). Management strategies are proposed to control this invasive crab in light of these results.