Integrating expert opinion and traditional ecological knowledge in invasive alien species management: Corbicula in Eastern Europe as a model.
The rate of alien species introduction is on the rise and seems unstoppable at a global scale. Once an alien species has been introduced to a new system, early detection and rapid eradication is the only cost-effective alternative to containment and long-term control. Here, we provide an integrative approach combining three sources of information to assist the management of invasive alien species. We used the Asian clam Corbicula sp. invasion in the Lower Danube as a model. First, the reference distribution data for the species was obtained through a crowdsourcing campaign, including a bibliographic review, public repositories and unpublished data. Next, we weighted the importance of different introduction pathways and dispersal vectors, focusing on the opinion and experience of an expert panel. Finally, information retrieved with semi-structured interviews was contrasted against the present distribution of the species. The expert panel highlighted the opening of the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal in 1992 as the most probable pathway of Corbicula introduction in the Lower Danube. However, the bibliographic review and interviews pointed to an earlier introduction event throughout the Danube Delta. In the subsequent spread phase, all three sources of information refer to zoochory, but also human mediated activities, as the vectors responsible for Corbicula dispersal to Danube tributaries. Our study presents a methodology on how expert opinion and traditional ecological knowledge can be effectively integrated to identify introduction pathways and dispersal vectors that facilitate the spread of invasive alien species. This approach can be used for enhancing collaboration between academic and research institutions and for raising stakeholders' awareness to be used in management.