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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

The devil is in the details: exploring how functionally distinct round goby is among native fish in the Baltic Sea

Vivó-Pons, Antoni; Wallin Kihlberg, Isa; Olsson, Jens; Ljungberg, Peter; Behrens, Jane W.; Lindegren, Martin


Understanding the characteristics and conditions that make non-indigenous species (NIS) successful at establishing in recipient communities is a key in determining their potential impacts on native species, as well as to improve management actions such as prevention of future invasions. The round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) is one of the most widespread non-indigenous fish species in the Northern Hemisphere, including the coastal zones of the Baltic Sea. The impacts of round goby in the Baltic Sea are pronounced and multifaceted, yet our knowledge regarding the underlying assembly processes determining its establishment is limited. To overcome this knowledge gap, we applied a trait-based approach to assess the degree of niche overlap and functional (trait) similarity between round goby and native fish species in coastal areas from the Baltic Sea, based on the functional distinctiveness metric. Our results show that round goby is generally quite similar (or not dissimilar) to the native fish of the regional species pool, at least in terms of its overall trait composition. Conversely, round goby demonstrates pronounced differences compared to the native community in its display of parental care and territorial behaviour. Such differences in individual traits could play an important role in round goby’s invasion success in the Baltic Sea, including its interactions with native species (e.g. competition). Our results and their potential implications may be highly relevant for conservation and management if integrated within existing risk assessment tools for biological invasions in order to prioritise and enhance the effectiveness of preventative actions towards the expansion of round goby.


Baltic Sea; biological invasions; coastal fish; functional distinctiveness; NIS; round goby; species traits; trait-based approach

Published in

2023, Volume: 89, pages: 161–186