We investigated the potential risk of non-native species to the Bering Sea through a ranking system developed to assess species’ traits, environmental suitability, and shipping traffic. We created habitat models relating species’ physiological tolerances gathered from literature to current and future climate scenarios to map areas of current and future concern. Last, we analysed shipping traffic from commercial and fishing vessels to identify ports of entry for invasive species.
At present, there are relatively few non-native species in the Bering Sea. However, it is predicted that Arctic regions – including the Bering Sea – will become more susceptible to invasions because of changes in climate and shipping traffic4,5. Given the importance of the Bering Sea to Alaskans, and the current lack of knowledge, evaluating the potential threat of non-native species in the region is needed to help inform management, monitoring, and research priorities.
Our ranking system evaluates the potential threat of non-native taxa to the Bering Sea. Each species is evaluated and scored independently following an in-depth literature review. Overall scores can range from 0 (least threat) to 100 (highest threat). The system contains 33 questions grouped into 5 categories. A score is calculated for each question based on the response selected. The ranking system can account for missing data by calculating the final score based only on known answers. We evaluated a total of 46 taxa that occur in the Bering Sea and nearby marine ecoregions.
This project was made possible through funding from The North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) and the Aleutian and Bering Sea Islands LCC (ABSI LCC) provided funding this project. We would like to thank our research partners, Tony Fishbach at USGS and Jordan Watson at NOAA. In addition, we would like to thank Tracey Gotthardt who was instrumental in the development of this project, and Casey Greenstein, Lindsey Flagstad, Catie Bursche, Jaime Weltfelt, and Curtis Whisman contributed to developing the ranking system and the species status reports. Thank you to Jennifer Dijkstra, Nora Foster, Kelly Krueger, Linda Shaw, Christina Simkanin, and Peter Westley for the time and energy they put into the expert review process. Thanks to Jen Karnak of Marine Exchange of Alaska, who assisted with vessel identification, and to Rob Bochenek and Dr. William Koeppen of Axiom Data Science for assistance in extracting the ROMS data. Additional thanks goes to Matt Carlson and Paul Schuette from the Alaska Center for Conservation Science for providing valuable feedback on the final report.