Invasion biology and risk assessment of the recently introduced Chinese mystery snail, Bellamya (Cipangopaludina) chinensis (Gray, 1834), in the Rhine and Meuse River basins in Western Europe.
The Chinese mystery snail, Bellamya (Cipangopaludina) chinensis, was recorded for the first time in 2007 in the Netherlands. By 2016, twelve water bodies (mostly riverine ecosystems) had been colonized by this freshwater snail. These records were the first known introductions of this alien species in the European Union (EU). Insight into the invasiveness and (potential) risks of ecological, socio-economic and public health effects of B. chinensis in Europe is urgently needed due to multiple introductions, permanent establishment and continuing secondary spread. A field survey was carried out to determine dispersal rate, habitat conditions and population characteristics of B. chinensis in the floodplain Eijsder Beemden along the Meuse River. The natural dispersal rate in this area was 0.1 km/yr and the average population density was 0.33 individuals/m2. This species has colonized several floodplain lakes that are hydrologically connected to the Meuse River. New introductions and colonization of the main channels of large rivers are expected to accelerate the dispersal of this species through water flow and shipping vectors. A risk assessment of B. chinensis was performed using the Harmonia+ protocol. Evidence of deliberate and unintentional introductions led to a high score for introduction risk. Risk of establishment was also assessed as high. The risk assessment resulted in a medium score for spread risk due to dispersal by human action. The assessed impact on plant targets or animal targets was very low. A medium risk was assigned to impacts on environmental targets. Risk of impacts on human targets received a low score. The overall invasion risk was classified as high and environmental impact was medium, resulting in a medium overall risk score. Regulation of B. chinensis trade and an increase in public awareness about its impact are required to prevent new introductions and further spread of this species in Europe. Moreover, there is an urgent need for research concerning the effects of B. chinensis on native biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, and cost-effective management of this species (e.g., eradication, population control and containment measures).