Modeling the risk of aquatic species invasion spread through boater movements and river connections

Amy C. Kinsley, Szu Yu Zoe Kao, Eva A. Enns, Luis E. Escobar, Huijie Qiao, Nicholas Snellgrove, Ulirich Muellner, Petra Muellner, Ranjan Muthukrishnan, Meggan E. Craft, Daniel J. Larkin, Nicholas B.D. Phelps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are one of the greatest threats to the functioning of aquatic ecosystems worldwide. Once an invasive species has been introduced to a new region, many governments develop management strategies to reduce further spread. Nevertheless, managing AIS in a new region is challenging because of the vast areas that need protection and limited resources. Spatial heterogeneity in invasion risk is driven by environmental suitability and propagule pressure, which can be used to prioritize locations for surveillance and intervention activities. To better understand invasion risk across aquatic landscapes, we developed a simulation model to estimate the likelihood of a waterbody becoming invaded with an AIS. The model included waterbodies connected via a multilayer network that included boater movements and hydrological connections. In a case study of Minnesota, we used zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) and starry stonewort (Nitellopsis obtusa) as model species. We simulated the impacts of management scenarios developed by stakeholders and created a decision-support tool available through an online application provided as part of the AIS Explorer dashboard. Our baseline model revealed that 89% of new zebra mussel invasions and 84% of new starry stonewort invasions occurred through boater movements, establishing it as a primary pathway of spread and offering insights beyond risk estimates generated by traditional environmental suitability models alone. Our results highlight the critical role of interventions applied to boater movements to reduce AIS dispersal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalConservation Biology
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. Conservation Biology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Conservation Biology.


  • aquatic invasive species
  • asignación de recursos
  • decision-support tool
  • especie acuática invasora
  • herramienta de decisiones
  • invasion risk
  • modelo de redes
  • multilayer network
  • network model
  • red multicapa
  • resource allocation
  • riesgo de invasión

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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