Prioritising surveillance for alien organisms transported as stowaways on ships travelling to South Africa
The global shipping network facilitates the transportation and introduction of marine and terrestrial organisms to regions where they are not native, and some of these organisms become invasive. South Africa was used as a case study to evaluate the potential for shipping to contribute to the introduction and establishment of marine and terrestrial alien species (i.e. establishment debt) and to assess how this varies across shipping routes and seasons. As a proxy for the number of species introduced (i.e. ‘colonisation pressure’) shipping movement data were used to determine, for each season, the number of ships that visited South African ports from foreign ports and the number of days travelled between ports. Seasonal marine and terrestrial environmental similarity between South African and foreign ports was then used to estimate the likelihood that introduced species would establish. These data were used to determine the seasonal relative contribution of shipping routes to South Africa’s marine and terrestrial establishment debt. Additionally, distribution data were used to identify marine and terrestrial species that are known to be invasive elsewhere and which might be introduced to each South African port through shipping routes that have a high relative contribution to establishment debt. Shipping routes from Asian ports, especially Singapore, have a particularly high relative contribution to South Africa’s establishment debt, while among South African ports, Durban has the highest risk of being invaded. There was seasonal variation in the shipping routes that have a high relative contribution to the establishment debt of the South African ports. The presented method provides a simple way to prioritise surveillance effort and our results indicate that, for South Africa, port-specific prevention strategies should be developed, a large portion of the available resources should be allocated to Durban, and seasonal variations and their consequences for prevention strategies should be explored further.