Pathways and gateways of freshwater invasions in Europe
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Taking into account the continuous increase in freshwater introductions, and to support the recent European legislation on invasive alien species, the identification of priority pathways and gateways of introductions is of utmost importance to develop adequate control strategies. The aim of this paper was to analyse the main pathways and gateways of introductions of freshwater alien species in Europe. Based on a thorough review of the scientific and grey literature, information on pathways, country and year of initial introduction of all freshwater alien species in Europe, was retrieved. The spatial and temporal patterns and trends of biological invasions in freshwater ecosystems in Europe, in relation to different pathways, were assessed. Our results pinpoint the major importance of aquaculture, pet/aquarium trade and stocking activities as pathways of introduction of freshwater alien species in Europe. For species native to some European countries, shipping and inland canals were the most important pathways, highly responsible for the entry of many harmful species. Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy were the main entry gateways of freshwater alien species in Europe. We found a geographical pattern related to some pathways of introduction in Europe: introductions through inland canals were concentrated in Central/North-eastern Europe, while introductions through pet/terrarium/aquarium trade were mainly observed in Central/Western Europe. While Chordata species entered Europe mainly through the three major above mentioned pathways, many harmful Arthropoda and Mollusca entered through shipping and inland canals. The information gathered in this study clearly indicates the entry routes that should be prioritised by Member States, for which stronger control and management actions should be implemented and prevention efforts concentrated under the scope of the related new EU Regulation.