A review of changes in the fish assemblages of Levantine inland and marine ecosystems following the introduction of non-native fishes


Author's address: Menachem Goren, Department of Zoology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.
E-mail: gorenm@post.tau.ac.il


The arrival of non-native fishes in the Levant Basin began in the late 19th century. Whereas the presence of most of the 40 non-native freshwater fishes stem from intentional introductions, either for aquaculture or pest control, the 62 species of non-native marine fishes arrived by natural dispersal via the Suez Canal. Of the non-native freshwater species, five have established successful breeding populations (mosquitofish Gambusia affinis, common carp Cyprinus carpio, crucian carp Carassius carassius, swordtail Xiphophorus hellerii and rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss), and seven are regularly stocked in natural habitats (thinlip mullet Liza ramada, flathead mullet Mugil cephalus, European eel Anguilla anguilla, grass carp Ctenopharyngodon idella, Asian silver carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix, bighead carp Aristichthys nobilis, black carp Mylopharyngodon piceus). Some non-native species appear to have out-competed native species. Gambusia affinis may have caused the extirpation of two native cyprinid fishes from the Qishon River basin (Levant silver carp Hemigrammocapoeta nana and common garra Garra rufa) and the southern Dead Sea (endemic Sodom's garra G. ghoerensis). The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 allowed entry into the eastern Mediterranean of Indo-Pacific and Erythrean biota, with the latter now dominating the community structure (50–90% of fish biomass) and function (altered native food web) of the Levantine littoral and infra-littoral zones. The process has accelerated in recent years concurrent with a warming trend of the seawater. Record numbers of newly discovered non-native species is leading to the creation of a human-assisted Erythrean biotic province in the eastern Mediterranean.