Unaided dispersal risk of Magallana gigas into and around the UK: combining particle tracking modelling and environmental suitability scoring.
Marine non-indigenous species are a significant threat to marine ecosystems with prevention of introduction and early detection considered to be the only effective management strategy. Knowledge of the unaided pathway has received relatively little attention, despite being integral to the implementation of robust monitoring and surveillance. Here, particle tracking modelling is combined with spatial analysis of environmental suitability, to highlight UK coastal areas at risk of introduction and spread of Magallana gigas by the unaided pathway. 'Introduction into UK' scenarios were based on spawning from the continental coast, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man and 'spread within UK' scenarios were based on spawning from known UK wild populations and aquaculture sites. Artificial structures were included as spawning sites in an introduction scenario. The UK coast was scored, based on parameters influencing larval settlement, to reflect environmental suitability. Risk maps were produced to highlight areas of the UK coast at elevated risk of introduction and spread of M. gigas by the unaided pathway. This study highlights that introduction of M. gigas into UK waters via the unaided pathway is possible, with offshore structures increasing the potential geographical extent of introduction. Further, there is potential for substantial secondary spread from aquaculture sites and wild populations in the UK. The results of the study are considered in the context of national M. gigas management, whilst the approach is contextualised more broadly as a tool to further understanding of a little-known, yet significant pathway.