Lionfish in the eastern Pacific
Lionfish in the eastern Pacific: a cellular automaton approach to assessing invasion risk
The lionfish invasion in the Atlantic and Caribbean has proceeded with vigor since their introduction in the 1980’s or early 1990’s. Lionfish effect recruitment of juvenile fish to reefs and are found in densities far surpassing that of their native Indo-pacific. There is concern that this voracious predator may become introduced and proliferate in the eastern tropical and north Pacific, through aquarium releases, transport on floating debris, or passage through the Panama Canal in ship ballast water. This study presents the first known prediction of the potential for establishment of lionfish in the eastern tropical and north Pacific Ocean, encompassing a region from 0° N to 40° N latitude. This study compares and contrasts the dynamics of hypothetical introductions of lionfish in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in order to highlight the different dynamics of an invasion. Transition matrixes are constructed to illustrate connectivity between discrete precincts and settlement densities are calculated to indicate potential for establishment of breeding lionfish populations. This study suggests that lionfish, which are very successful in the Atlantic, may not be as efficacious in the Pacific due the lack of equitable conditions for the species. Additionally, the study indicates that connectivity within the Pacific study region is not conducive to the rapid spread of larvae over great distances.