Broad niche overlap between invasive Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus and indigenous congenerics in Southern Africa: Should we be concerned?
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This study developed niche models for the native ranges of Oreochromis andersonii, O. mortimeri, and O. mossambicus, and assessed how much of their range is climatically suitable for the establishment of O. niloticus, and then reviewed the conservation implications for indigenous congenerics as a result of overlap with O. niloticus based on documented congeneric interactions. The predicted potential geographical range of O. niloticus reveals a broad climatic suitability over most of southern Africa and overlaps with all the endemic congenerics. This is of major conservation concern because six of the eight river systems predicted to be suitable for O. niloticus have already been invaded and now support established populations. Oreochromis niloticus has been implicated in reducing the abundance of indigenous species through competitive exclusion and hybridisation. Despite these well-documented adverse ecological effects, O. niloticus remains one of the most widely cultured and propagated fish species in aquaculture and stock enhancements in the southern Africa sub-region. Aquaculture is perceived as a means of protein security, poverty alleviation, and economic development and, as such, any future decisions on its introduction will be based on the trade-off between socio-economic benefits and potential adverse ecological effects.
- RESEARCH: Chimimba C