Species distribution models as a tool for early detection of the invasive Raphidiopsis raciborskii in European lakes.
In freshwater habitats, invasive species and the increase of cyanobacterial blooms have been identified as a major cause of biodiversity loss. The invasive cyanobacteria Raphidiopsis raciborskii a toxin-producing and bloom-forming species affecting local biodiversity and ecosystem services is currently expanding its range across Europe. We used species distribution models (SDMs) and regional bioclimatic environmental variables, such as temperature and precipitation, to identify suitable areas for the colonization and survival of R. raciborskii, with special focus on the geographic extent of potential habitats in Northern Europe. SDMs predictions uncovered areas of high occurrence probability of R. raciborskii in locations where it has not been recorded yet, e.g. some areas in Central and Northern Europe. In the southeastern part of Sweden, areas of suitable climate for R. raciborskii corresponded with lakes of high concentrations of total phosphorus, increasing the risk of the species to thrive. To our knowledge, this is the first attempt to predict areas at high risk of R. raciborskii colonization in Europe. The results from this study suggest several areas across Europe that would need monitoring programs to determine if the species is present or not, to be able to prevent its potential colonization and population growth. Regarding an undesirable microorganism like R. raciborskii, authorities may need to start information campaigns to avoid or minimize the spread.