A review of current knowledge, risk and ecological impacts associated with non-native freshwater fish introductions in South Africa.
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The introduction and spread of non-native species is one of the least reversible human-induced global changes. In South Africa, non-native fish introductions have occurred over the last two and a half centuries. Resultant invasions have been cited as a primary threat to imperilled South African fishes and other aquatic fauna. Addressing a problem of this magnitude requires an organised approach. The aim of this paper is to summarise the current knowledge, risk and ecological impacts associated with non-native freshwater fish introductions in South Africa. A total of 55 fishes have been introduced into novel environments in South Africa. Of these, 27 were alien and 28 were extralimital introductions. Only 11 introduced species failed to establish and of the 44 species that have established, 37% are considered fully invasive. Introductions for angling were responsible for the highest proportion (55%) of fully invasive species with the remainder linked to inter-basin water transfers (15%), bio-control (15%), ornamental fish trade (10%) and aquaculture (5%). There was a general paucity of published literature on the introduction, establishment and spread of non-native fishes, and recent research has largely focused on impacts on native biota. While documented impacts spanned multiple levels of biological organisation, most papers focused on individual and population level impacts. Large taxonomic biases were also observed, and invasive impacts were estimated for less than 50% of fully invasive fishes. There is also an extensive knowledge gap on the impacts of associated parasites and diseases introduced with non-native fishes. These knowledge gaps constrain effective management of non-native fishes in South Africa and research at all invasion stages (introduction, establishment, spread and impact) is necessary to guide conservation practitioners and managers with information to manage current invasions and curb future introductions.
- RESEARCH: Weyl, O