Baseline survey of non-indigenous species in the Baltic Sea ports -Testing and evaluating the HELCOM-OSPAR Port Survey Protocol
Paper in proceedings, 2015
Transport and introductions of non-indigenous species (NIS) is perceived as one of the primary threats to the diversity and productivity of the coastal ecosystems worldwide. One of the most important vectors for aquatic organisms is shipping and ports act as key locations for new species arrivals. The Baltic Sea is subject to very intense shipping and as a result facing an increasing load of NIS. Ports are often the first arrival locations for new species and they often offer a variety of potentially hospitable environments. Despite of this vulnerability, there has been no frequent NIS monitoring in place for Baltic Sea ports. The Baltic Sea states, working through HELCOM, have agreed on a Protocol to collect the required information in ports, both for implementing the Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) and EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). Currently, port surveys have been conducted in five Baltic Sea countries in nine ports. Based on the results, the methods appear to function well in the challenging port environments. Furthermore, survey results indicate that ports harbour a variety of NIS, which highlights the need for continuous monitoring. However, non-parametric extrapolators of the species accumulation curves show that more sampling effort should be directed to certain variable ports and to certain species groups. Also, the Protocol sampling did not adequately cover the seasonal dynamics of the biota and the surrounding areas. Therefore, reliable risk assessments for exemptions from the BWMC require including additional data from the area.