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Biological invasions -- Research


Hazard characterization and risk assessment are commonly used to prioritize vectors of nonindigenous species (NIS) for inspection or other prevention opportunities. Commercial shipping vessels are a target of such vector-based management since ballast water has been known to transport NIS between aquatic ecosystems globally. Here we used a risk-based screening protocol to prioritize vessels discharging ballast water to the lower Columbia River and Oregon coast. We began by adapting established methods of assessing risk factors that influence the initial stages of the invasion process (arrival and survival). We created relative risk scales for each factor using data collected from vessels that discharged ballast water in three unique zones within our study area. We then organized a decision tree based on the confidence level of the proxies used for each risk factor to create a tool that prioritizes vessels with high risk ballast water for attention from regulatory personnel. In order of consideration, decision tree factors included: intent to discharge ballast water, reported adherence to required management practices, environmental distance between source and discharge locations (habitat suitability), ballast water discharge volume (propagule pressure number and frequency), and ballast water age (organism viability). As a result, vessels were prioritized on a scale of low, medium, medium-high, or high. We applied the decision tree to a 2016 dataset of vessel arrivals and found that 173 of 1,592 arrivals were deemed high priority, with most occurring at ports in the freshwater zone of the Columbia River (158), followed by fewer in the estuarine zone of the Columbia River (4) and in Coos Bay (11). The decision tree is transferable to NIS prevention and regulatory efforts in other port systems. The vessel prioritizations are adaptable for managers using risk assessment strategies to allocate limited regulatory program resources for vector screening.


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