Aquatic Invasive Species Pond and Lake Vulnerability Prioritization for New York

Project Sponsor: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
End Date: June 30, 2022

Summary

The goal of this project is to provide spatial information to help prioritize aquatic invasive species surveys and management efforts of lakes and ponds. This project brings together components representing threats to lakes from Introduction, Establishment, and Impact. We developed an online tool that allows users to vary the risk of introduction to select a subset of lakes. These lakes can then be filtered based on the modeled likelihood of establishment and then filtered again based on the magnitude of impact an invasive species may have. Managers using this tool end up with a subset of lakes and ponds that can be prioritized for survey or management action.

Launch the Prioritization Tool.

Project Need and Background

Fig 1. from M. Jake Vander Zanden and Julian D. Olden. A management framework for preventing the secondary spread of aquatic invasive species. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.  65(7):   1512-1522. https://doi.org/10.1139/F08-099. © Canadian Science Publishing or its licensors.

Fig 1. from M. Jake Vander Zanden and Julian D. Olden. A management framework for preventing the secondary spread of aquatic invasive species. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 65(7): 1512-1522. https://doi.org/10.1139/F08-099. © Canadian Science Publishing or its licensors.

Invasive species continue to pose a threat to our natural communities, native species, and agricultural systems. New York State is very active in tracking invasive species with iMapInvasives and coordinating invasive species management, such as with the Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISMs). To support these efforts we developed a GIS layer for terrestrial prioritization that is available as an ArcGIS online service.The goal of this project is to provide a tool to support prioritization for survey, assessment, and management of 8,683 lakes and ponds for invasive species in New York.

This project is based on a management framework introduced by Vander Zanden and Olden in 2008, where they suggest vulnerability is based on: 1. The ability of a lake to be colonized (introduction), 2. Once colonized, the ability for the lake to support a self-sustaining population (establishment), and 3. The impact the invasion will have on the lake (Impact).

Steering Committee

We worked with a steering committee with representation from:

  • New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC)
    • Invasive Species Coordination Unit
    • Division of Water
  • New York Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP)
  • New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation
  • Partnerships of Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM)
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve
  • Lake Champlain Basin Program

Methodological Approach 

The first step was to ascertain what dataset of water bodies is most appropriate to use as our core set of “lakes and ponds.” We started with the Northeast Lake and Pond Classification developed by The Nature Conservancy. We added data from the NYSDEC Division of Water.

To be as current and accurate as possible, we updated attributes related to NLCD (National Land Cover Database) metrics to the most recently available (2016) NLCD. Thus, we updated information for each waterbody for land cover information within 100 and 1000 meters and within the full upstream accumulation area (watershed) for the waterbody. Values for 60 variables were replaced in total.

With advice from the steering committee, we then developed metrics relating to each component of vulnerability, as follows.

Introduction

The advisory committee identified recreational boating, waterfowl, and waterways as known vectors of aquatic invasive species introduction. Therefore, we quantified the risk of invasive species introduction using the following metrics: boat traffic (modeled using Watercraft Inspection Steward Program [WISPA] data, road traffic data, and more), and proximity to known infestations (downstream distance from iMapInvasives presence records, as well as the number of iMapInvasives presence records within a search radius based on bird foraging distances).

Table 1. Metrics used to quantify the risk of invasive species introduction.
Element of Risk of Introduction Score Weight in Risk Score Element is a measure of… Calculation Summary Column name in data attribute table Data Source
Boat Traffic 2 Risk of invasive introduction via motor boat or personal watercraft Predicted boat traffic value from random forest model for lake or pond. Was manually set to 0 in NYC Reservoirs with restricted boating access. ttlmotopwc Output of a random forest model using WISPA boat launch data as independent variable
Motor Traffic 2 Risk of invasive introduction via people Weighted sum of the average annual daily traffic on lines within 100 meters of the lake or pond. traffic Department of Transportation
Straight line Distance to nearest invasive 0.5 Proximity of lake or pond to invasives Distance to nearest iMapInvasives aquatic invasive record Dist_iMap_meters iMapInvasives
Flowline distance to nearest invasive 5 Proximity of lake or pond to invasives Distance along flowlines to nearest iMapInvasives aquatic invasive record Dist_i_MIN iMapInvasives
Number of species of aquatic invasives within 7.4 km 1 General invasive pressure within waterfowl dispersal range Number of unique aquatic invasive species, as reported by iMapInvasives, within 7.4 km of pond/lake. Unique_Elements iMapInvasives

Establishment

To represent the risk of invasive species establishment, we constructed species habitat models for a suite of eight aquatic invasive species to predict the suitability of every lake and pond to each species. These eight species were selected with guidance from the steering committee to represent major functional groups of aquatic invasive species. The species habitat models were constructed using iMapInvasives data and environmental data, and for the following species:

  • Water Chestnut (floating plant)
  • Hydrilla (submerged plant)
  • Eurasian Watermilfoil (submerged plant)
  • Starry Stonewort (submerged algae)
  • Northern Snakehead (fish)
  • Rusty Crayfish (benthic arthropod)
  • Spiny Waterflea (planktonic arthropod)
  • Zebra Mussel (benthic bivalve)

Potential Impact

Waterbodies of high ecological condition with minimal stressors are at risk to the greatest impacts if invaded. We modeled quantified potential impact using several metrics of ecological condition, recreational value, and stressors, ranked with input from the advisory committee. These metrics included the Landscape Condition Assessment (LCA), occurrences of rare species and significant ecological communities (NYNHP), harmful algal blooms (HAB), fishing activity (from the top recreational fishing waterbodies listed in a NYSDEC report, and Watercraft Inspection Steward Program data).

Table 2. Ranked metrics of ecological condition, recreational value, and stressors.
Element of Potential Impact of Invasion Score Weight in Impact Score Element Is a Measure of… Calculation Summary Column Name in Data Attribute Table Data Source
Average Landscape Condition Assessment score 20 Water and Habitat Quality Average value for lake or pond LCA_MEAN LCA: Combined model of anthropogenic disturbance including roads, agriculture, historical land use, development
Average Biological Assessment Profile score of flowlines through pond/lake 15 Water and Habitat Quality Average value for flowlines passing through a lake or pond avg_bap Biological Assessment Profile - predicted model of water quality based on presence of invertebrates
Native fish richness 15 Water and Habitat Quality Average Z-score for flowlines passing through a lake or pond avg_rich_zscore Predictive models of habitat suitability for native fish in New York streams created by Jim McKenna, NYSDEC
Rare plants and Animals 15 Presence of rare species Sum of the scores for all eos in the lake or pond. Scores weight eos by rareness, quality, and age sum_eoscore New York Natural Heritage Program Element Occurrences (EOs)
Number of NYNHP significant natural communities 15 Presence of significant natural communities Number of Natural Community eos in or adjacent to lake or pond. Unique_EOs New York Natural Heritage Program Element Occurrences
I FISH NY recommended lakes 10 Recreation impact- potential loss of fishing opportunities Full points if on the list DECfish NYSDEC Lakes List
Proportion of WISPA visits for fishing purposes 5 Recreation impact- potential loss of fishing opportunities Proportion of visits with fishing as stated primary purpose prop_n_fishing WISPA data
Likelihood of Harmful Algal Blooms 5 Water and Habitat Quality Random forest predictive model of number of years with a report of a HAB (out of 8) years_w_ha Output of random forest model of number of years with at least one reported HAB

Online Prioritization Tool 

The Prioritization Tool begins with the full set of lakes, either throughout New York State, or restricted to the PRISM chosen by the user. The user then applies risk of introduction, risk of establishment, and potential impact filters in sequence to come up with a final subset of lakes likely to deserve increased survey or management attention based on the specific priorities set by the user.

Instructions: This tool is user driven - you can decide to what extent each component filters lakes depending on your priorities. The filters are intended to be used in the order in which they are presented along the left side of the interface.

Step 1 - Select your region of interest. The tool defaults to all 8,683 lakes and ponds statewide. You can restrict the output to one or more PRISMs by clicking the “Filter by PRISM” toggle, then selecting the PRISM(s) of interest.

Step 2 - Introduction Risk: Drag the slider to prioritize lakes over a certain threshold for estimated introduction risk (use the histogram as a guide).

Step 3 - Establishment Risk: Select the proxy species you want to consider, and select at what level of suitability you want to consider a lake high priority (medium-high suitability will select more lakes than high suitability only; low-med-high would select all lakes)

Step 4 - Potential impact (“what’s at stake”): Drag the slider to prioritize lakes over a certain threshold for estimated potential impact (use the histogram as a guide).

Once you have gone through the tool selections, you can capture screenshots of the map showing the selected lakes, generate a summary report, and download a spreadsheet of your prioritized of lakes.

The online tool is available at https://lab.nynhp.org/aquatic-invasive-prioritization/.


April 13, 2022 | Updated April 27, 2022, 6:19 p.m.