Defining non-indigenous fish assemblage types in Mediterranean rivers: network analysis and management implications.
The design and implementation of appropriate management actions to tackle the spread and negative impacts of non-indigenous fish species (NIFS) in freshwater ecosystems still remains a complex task. In an effort to address the limitations of current managerial approaches, our study develops and applies a classification framework to define non-indigenous fish assemblage types (FATs) in Mediterranean riverine ecosystems and identifies the linkage with various regional, local, biotic and abiotic environmental factors. This framework contributes to a pre-invasion stage screening and to the design of effective type-specific post-invasion management actions dealing with specific NIFS assemblages. A network analysis was applied in order to extract NIFS community level information from 393 samples obtained from 51 river basins of Greece, while a multivariate ordination analysis was conducted to detect the factors best explaining the structure and distribution of FATs. The association patterns of the study's inputs and outcomes are illustrated through an alluvial diagram, providing insights across different spatial scales. In total, five FATs were generated where the major NIFS contributors of average similarity within each modularity class revealed the key indicator species (Gambusia-FAT; Carassius/Lepomis-FAT; Pseudorasbora-FAT; Salmonids-FAT and Carp-FAT). Overall, the identified FATs varied spatially, indicating different community structure, mainly based on the diverse habitat preferences and life-history traits of indicator species. Alien FATs were mainly distributed within large and transboundary rivers, while Translocated and Salmonids FATs mostly occupied ecoregions with relatively depauperate faunas and often in biodiversity hotspots. The results of this study can identify conservation priorities within FATs, inform specific-type post-invasion management actions tackling NIFS, while in addition may provide valuable information for protecting high-priority water bodies before invasion.