Research Publications: UM-SG-RS-2006-25


Shipping patterns associated with the Panama Canal: effects on biotic exchange?




Ruiz, GM; Lorda, J; Arnwine, A; Lion, K


Gollasch, S; Gail, BS; Cohen, AN, eds. Bridging Divides: Maritime Canals as Invasions Corridors. Springer.
Chapter 2 : 113 - 126


Changes in shipping patterns affect not only transport of cargo but also transfer of organisms to new geographic regions. It is well known that many species are transferred unintentionally in the cargo of ships as well as on the hulls and ballasted materials of ships (Visscher 1928, Carlton 1985, Carlton and Geller 1993, Coutts 1999, Gollasch 2002). Upon release to a new geographic region, many species have established self-sustaining populations. Due to the magnitude of shipping and the extensive species pool associated with ships' ballast and hulls, shipping is a leading source of these biological invasions in coastal ecosystems throughout the world (Cohen and Carlton 1995, Reise 1998, Ruiz et al. 2000, Fofonoff et al. 2003, Hewitt et al. 2004). In this chapter, we begin to explore some patterns of shipping associated with the Panama Canal (see Panama Canal chapter I for history and description of the canal). The opening of this passage in 1914 was indeed a punctuated event, causing a change in commercial shipping on a global scale. We compiled historical records from the Panama Canal Authority to (a) describe changes in the magnitude of shipping through the Panama Canal from 1914-2004, (b) examine the directional flux of different vessel types, including the frequency of ballasted versus cargo laden transits, through the canal and (c) compare the magnitude of shipping through the canal to that of the largest port systems in the United States. Based upon this background, we consider the implications of creating this new passageway, and its expanding use, for biological invasions.

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