First appearing in North American waters in 1988, the Eurasian zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) has rapidly colonized freshwater systems and can now be found in all of the Great Lakes as well as rivers large and small across the United States and Canada. Halting its spread has proven to be a significant undertaking, with researchers and policymakers fanning out to try and contain the harmful nonnative species. Researchers have long assumed that transient recreational boating provides a conduit for zebra mussels to be transported to inland lakes. A new study published in the December issue of Ecological Applications provides insight into the ecological risks posed by this popular recreational activity.
The zebra mussel is damaging to both human infrastructure and natural ecosystems. Large groupings of the mussels clog pipes of power plants, water, and sewage treatment sites. The weight of mussels has even been known to sink buoys and navigational aids. Ecologically the mussels are adversely affecting native mussels by interfering with their feeding, growth, movement, respiration, and reproduction. For example, scientists have found that where zebra mussel densities are highest, the number of native mussels is dramatically lower than normal levels.
With many rivers and lakes already playing host to the zebra mussel, it is important to assess the risk of spreading the interloping species to new water bodies. To that end, Ladd Johnson of Laval University in Canada, Anthony Riccardi of McGill University, and James Carlton of Williams College, examined the destinations of recreational boats and their ability to transport the adult and larval stages of this invader. Their findings are surprising.
It had been assumed that mussel dispersal from boat launches occurred by direct attachment to transient boats. The researchers found that this is not the case; "During the course of the study it became apparent that the conventional wisdom waPage: 1 2 3 4 Related biology news :1
Contact: Andrew Freedman
Ecological Society of America
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