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Seaplane on a lake

Aquatic Invasive Species

The information on this website under the Phase 1 menu tab incorporates information compiled from the first phase of a four-phase project to produce a risk analysis to assess the potential to spread aquatic invasive species via seaplanes. At the conclusion of the project, recommendations will be made to enhance U.S. aquatic invasive species-seaplane prevention efforts. The DRAFT material posted in the Phase I section of the website represents a compilation of material from numerous sources, some of which may ultimately inform the risk analysis. The purpose of compiling this information was to better understand the seaplane pathway and identify key data gaps and information needed to inform the risk analysis. No analysis of this information has been conducted to date as content is refined and additional sources and content are added.

Regional High-Risk Aquatic Invasive Species

One potential step to assessing risk of AIS spread via the seaplane pathway is to identify the high-risk AIS species using state and regional AIS lists. There are numerous ways to characterize U.S. regions (e.g., ANS Task Force Regional Panels, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser vice regions, Federal Aviation Administration regions, etc.). The maps depict FAA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regions.

FAA regions
US Fish and Wildlife Service regions

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regions (top). FAA regions (left).

Socioeconomic and Environmental Impacts of Aquatic Invasive Species

Invasive species are widely recognized as negatively impacting ecological processes and economies worldwide. Significant ecological impacts include irreversible changes to ecosystem function and community composition, and loss of endangered and threatened species.  The economic impacts include extensive and increasing costs to prevent, control and eradicate invasive species populations, and resulting socioeconomic impacts to human communities. Further, the synergistic effects of climate change and invasive species play a powerful role in altering ecosystem processes. These synergistic interactions of climate change and invasive species result in intensified invasive species impacts, facilitated spread and establishment, increased susceptibility of habitats to invasion and reduced ecosystem resilience (ISAC 2023). The economic and ecological threats posed by invasive species are anticipated to increase into the future.

Invasive species are a key driver to biodiversity loss (Gurevitch and Padilla 2004, and Maxwell et al. 2016), driving up to 60% of extinctions seen globally (IPBES 2023).  A recent synthesis of studies comparing the impacts of aquatic invasive species across multiple aquatic taxa and habitat ecosystems indicate invasive species contributed to both a decrease of abundance of species and a decrease in the diversity of aquatic communities (Gallerdo et al. 2015).

Species-specific scenarios provide context for ecological impacts.  The ecological effects of dreissenid mussels are considered the most far-reaching relative to other aquatic invasive species, causing local extinction of many native mollusks (Strayer and Malcom 2007; Burlakova et al. 2014), changing the structure of food webs (Wainright et al. 2021) and fish assemblages (Souza et al. 2023), and contributing to the collapse of valuable fish populations (Kelly et al. 2010; Bossenbroek et al. 2009; Strayer 2009; Pimentel et al. 2005). Various invasive aquatic plants have been linked to negative changes to aquatic ecosystems once introduced to a waterbody.  For example, Myriophyllym aquaticum infestations significantly reduced dissolved oxygen concentrations in waters compared to those with native aquatic vegetation (Kuehne et al. 2016). When comparing invaded and un-invaded aquatic habitats, invasive Elodea sp. were found to have significant impacts on biofilms and nutrient cycling (McKie et al. 2023). In other ecosystems dominated by invasive milfoil, a loss of native plant species in aquatic communities was observed (Boylen et al. 1999).  The cascading effects of an aquatic invasive plant invasion can be observed in a recent example impacting wild salmonid populations. Following the introduction of Elodea spp. to Alaska waters, changes in dissolved oxygen and increased cover in Elodea-invaded habitats put salmonid fisheries at risk (Schwoerer et al. 2017). A modeling study examined suitable Elodea spp. habitat and indicated an overlap of known spawning and rearing sites for Chinook salmon and whitefish coupled with subsistence patterns of fishing in Alaska (Luizza et al. 2016). The implications of these patterns threaten the overall survival of critical fish species and the economies that they support.

Historic economic impact assessments have indicated the damages and loss of invasive species in United States at $120 billion annually (Pimentel et al. 2005). However, more recent accounts estimate the cost of invasive species at $20–26 billion annually (Crystal-Ornelas et al. 2021, Diagne et al. 2022, Fantle-Lepczyk et al. 2022).  These assessments help describe the broad impact of invasive species across a range of taxa and economic foundations.  When examining the economic burden of aquatic invasive species at a local level, invasive species can negatively impact infrastructure (Daniels et al. 2023), create restrictions for human activity, contribute to loss of revenue (Fantle-Lepczyk et al. 2022), and reduce real estate values (Zipp et al. 2019).  

Specific economic scenarios can be helpful to understand the scale of invasive species impacts. Invasive dreissenid mussels can affect all facility components exposed to raw water; mussels can clog pipelines and water intakes and disrupt operations at hydroelectric power plants, municipal water supply facilities, and conveyance systems used in irrigation, resulting in water lines incapable of supplying a consistent and reliable source of water (Vissichelli 2018). Invasive mussels pose serious threats to hydropower infrastructure and operations (Rumzie et al. 2021).

Surveys have been conducted to examine the operational costs associated with dreissenid mussels at multiple hydropower facilities in the United States. The dreissenid-associated maintenance expenses for nine hydro facilities total about $464,000 annually (BOR 2021). Invasive aquatic plants pose additional impacts, such as algal blooms and degraded water quality due to excess nutrients which influence home sale price (Ara et al. 2006; Horsch and Lewis 2009; Zhang and Boyle 2010; Walsh et al. 2011; Bingham et al. 2015; Baron et al. 2016). The presence of milfoil and native aquatic vegetation in Vermont lakes decreased property value ranging from 0.3 percent to 16.4 percent depending on the degree of total macrophyte (aquatic plant) coverage (Zhang and Boyle 2010).

The Climate Change - AIS - Seaplane Nexus

Climate change alters ecosystem conditions, which enables the spread of invasive species via range expansion as well as creation of habitats and conditions suitable for newly introduced invasive species (U.S. EPA 2008).


Climate change will influence the likelihood of new species becoming established by eliminating cold temperatures or winter hypoxia that currently prevents survival and by increasing the construction of reservoirs that serve as invasive species hotspots (Rahel and Olden 2008). Climate change will facilitate expansion of invasive species into new areas and magnify the effects of established invasive species (Rahel et al. 2008). Climate change, in combination with changes in use of the land and sea, facilitate both establishment and spread of invasive species, particularly in fragmented ecosystems (IPBES 2023). Climate change will contribute to reductions in water quality and quantity, including the spread of and shifts in invasive species (Woolway et al. 2022). Lakes are changing rapidly in response to natural and anthropogenic stressors (Woolway et al. 2022); climate change is a threat multiplier in lakes (Smol 2010), particularly in lakes with seasonal ice cover (Hampton et al. 2017).


Some regions, particularly in Alaska, may have more months with ice- and snow-free conditions as a result of a warming climate. Rising temperatures are contributing to a shortened snow-cover season, melting glaciers, thawing permafrost, and less predictable sea ice extent in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas (USDA Northwest Climate Hub[1]).


Human actions at the individual, institutional, and societal levels contribute to invasive species-climate change issues (Bradley et al. 2023). Facilitating information exchange and incorporating climate change into invasion risk assessments are two approaches that involve minimal expense and working within existing frameworks to incentivize climate-smart actions to reduce invasion risk and impacts (Bradley et al. 2023). Engaging with stakeholders and ensuring regulatory agility exists to respond to climate and other change drivers is a key requirement for strengthening the management response to biological invasions (Robinson et al. 2020).


Although predicting where invaders may spread and their impacts are important, engaging with stakeholders to understand their values relative to invasive species and the environment has the most utility (Tebboth et al. 2020). McCumber et al. (2023) found geo graphical patterns in “lake ethic”—attitudes, goals, and management—of stakeholders interviewed across lake communities in four U.S. states, focusing on the cultural meanings of nature for stakeholders. Communities represented by the public good lake ethic are more likely to respond to approaches that minimize invasive species while recognizing the value of the lake community for recreation and human enjoyment whereas those represented by the exclusive resource lake ethic are more likely to respond to approaches that seek to remove and minimize invasive species in recognition of the value of other nonhuman aquatic species and the lake community as a whole (McCumber et al. 2023).



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