An evaluation of the current extent and potential spread of Black Bass invasions in South Africa
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Black Bass, a collective name for members of the centrarchid genus Micropterus, are native to North America, but have been introduced globally to enhance recreational angling. This study assessed the distribution of Micropterus salmoides, M. dolomieu and M. punctulatus in South Africa using both formal (survey-based) and informal (tournament data and social media) information sources. Analysis of the distribution data showed habitat bias between the data sources. Survey data from formal information sources were dominated by locality records in riverine environments while those derived from informal information sources focused more on lacustrine habitats. Presence data were used to develop niche models to identify suitable areas for their establishment. The predicted distribution range of M. salmoides revealed a broad suitability over most of South Africa, however, the Cape Fold Ecoregion and all coastal regions were most suitable for the establishment for both M. dolomieu and M. punctulatus. Flow accumulation and precipitation of coldest quarter were the most important environmental variables associated with the presence of all Black Bass species in South Africa. In addition, anthropogenic disturbance such as agricultural activities were associated with the presence of both Smallmouth Bass and Spotted Bass. An extensive area-based invasion debt was observed for all Micropterus spp. The potential for further spread of Black Bass in South Africa is of ecological concern because of their impact on native biota.