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No. 391: Identification and risk assessment of potential invasive species in Greenland waters

Gustavson K., Wegeberg S., Christiansen T. & Geertz-Hansen O. Identification and risk assessment of potential invasive species in Greenland waters. Aarhus University, DCE – Danish Centre for Environment and Energy, 38 pp. Scientific Report No. 391 http://dce2.au.dk/pub/SR391.pdf


Invasive species (invasive alien species) are of global conservation concern, and they may have strong, negative impacts on ecosystems other species and valuable natural resources. Well-known examples of marine invasive species intentionally introduced by man are the red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) in the waters off northern Norway and the Kola Peninsula. Another example is the American comb jelly (Mnemiopsis leidyi) introduced by ballast water, which has had large ecological and economic impacts on the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea.

So far, Arctic waters have experienced a relatively low number of biological introductions. Their geographical remoteness, cold waters and presence of sea ice pose challenging conditions for both non-native organisms and the vessels that transport them, which presumably is the reason for the low rates of introduction and establishment. However, the currently observed increase in water temperatures resulting in reductions in sea ice forced by climate changes may increase shipping as well as the risk for introduction and establishment of non-native invasive species in artic waters.

Based on a literature review and risk assessments, this report identifies species that may potentially become invasive in Greenland Arctic waters, and some of these may have potential high impacts on ecosystems and fisheries. The report suggests that a warming of Arctic waters and a reduction of sea ice may increase the risk for invasion and establishment of non-native species in Greenland waters.

As part of this project, Aarhus University has, in coordination with the Ministry of Environment and Food in Denmark and the Ministry of Nature and Environment in Greenland, contributed and provided input as needed to the implementation of the Arctic Invasive Alien Species Strategy and Action Plan 2017 (ARIAS), elaborated by the Arctic Council via the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) and Protection of The Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) working groups. This report is a national follow-up on actions defined in ARIAS to improve the knowledge base in support of informed decision making.  

The report presents an assessment of species that pose a risk of becoming invasive in Greenland marine waters. The risk assessment includes information from governmental publications, national research reports, other scientific literature and risk assessments for other Arctic waters. The observed warming of Arctic waters is included in the assessment as a contributory factor towards increasing the risk for potential establishment of species introduced by shipping or transplantation to Greenland waters. The risk assessments include species that, based on the literature, are identified as potential threats to Greenland waters. The identified species represent different biology and reproductive strategies as well as different present distributions. As such, the identified species have different pathways and abilities to establish. Hence, it is to some extent possible to extrapolate between closely related species with comparable biology, for instance crabs such as red and brown king crabs. The list of potential invasive species is constantly evolving as new species distributions are observed and recorded. This report provides a basis for future invasive species risk assessments in Greenland waters.

The report includes recommendations for the work in PAME and CAFF and for developing a strategy for the protection of Greenland waters against non-native invasive species. A potential strategy is recommended to include: 1) Development of a regulatory system to control, avoid and manage introduction of non-native invasive species by ships (ballast water and biofouling); 2) identification of high risk shipping (ship types, shipping routes, sea areas etc.); 3) updating and maintenance of knowledge of species with risk of becoming invasive in Greenland; 4) development of monitoring systems for early detection/warning (e.g., interviews with fishermen and hunters and biological monitoring). The suggested actions can benefit from coordination and, where possible, collaboration with other countries in the Arctic.

  The present report received financial support from the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food as part of the environmental support program ‘Dancea’. The authors are solely responsible for all results and conclusions presented in the report, which do not necessarily reflect the position of the Danish Ministry of the Environment and Food or the Ministry of Nature and Environment in Greenland.