Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Don't move a mussel (or a clam, or a snail)

03.04.2014

Small freshwater biofoulers carry a big price tag

Anyone that has spent time at a seaside pier has witnessed the destruction barnacles wreak on boat hulls. But biofouling animals are not limited to marine environments. A new paper published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment estimates that the global management of freshwater mussels, clams, and other clinging animals costs $277 million U.S. dollars annually.

Zebra Mussels Clogging a Pipe

This is an example of how biofoulers (in this case zebra mussels) can colonize pipes, obstructing flow.

Credit: Photo by Gemma Grace

Biofoulers are organisms that accumulate underwater on hard surfaces, to the detriment of property and economically important activities, such as shipping, power generation, and water treatment. While plants and algae can act as freshwater biofoulers, the study focused on the impact of animals. Eleven groups known to cause problems were investigated, among them mussels, clams, snails, crustaceans, sponges, and insects.

David Strayer is a freshwater ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and one of the paper's authors. "A lot of attention has been given to marine biofouling because it costs a ton of money. Less is known about freshwater impacts. We found most of the economic burden is currently shouldered by utilities. Hydroelectric power plant cooling systems and water treatment intake pipes are particularly vulnerable to damages."

Many freshwater biofoulers are filter-feeders. These animals readily colonize pipes and channel walls, where they collect food from the passing water. Coverage can be extensive. When water treatment intake pipes and filters clog, water flow is obstructed, hastening the corrosion of costly infrastructure. Infestation in hydroelectric power station channels decreases the efficiency of water flow used for power generation.

Management has involved keeping biofoulers out, keeping their numbers low, and killing off infestations. Specialized filters can stop animals from entering facilities that rely on untreated water. To prevent accumulation on hard surfaces, copper alloys, anti-fouling coatings, and ultraviolet light are among the methods used. At water treatment plants and power stations repelling chemicals like chlorine and mechanical cleaning are the most common controls.

Strayer notes, "There are a cornucopia of strategies to combat biofoulers, but most are either costly, or come with the price of polluting water and poisoning non-target organisms."

Given our increasing demand for water and electricity, without action the problem is likely to intensify. First author Daisuke Nakano of Japan's Central Research Institute of Electric Power writes, "Impacts of freshwater biofoulers may soon increase as humans inadvertently move these species around the world, as global demand for freshwater rises, and as human activities favor biofouling species by providing them with suitable habitat."

New water treatment plants and power stations will be susceptible to biofouling. And nutrient pollution and climate change may favor biofoulers. Filter-feeding biofoulers – among the most costly – thrive in the nutrient-rich waters common in developed areas, where they establish on engineered surfaces like concrete walls. Climate warming may increase the range of biofouling animals that are limited by cold temperatures.

In North America, the most troublesome biofoulers include zebra mussels, quagga mussels, Asian clams, and New Zealand mud snails. Strayer notes, "A common theme among these biofoulers is that they are non-native. They are also easily transported on boats and in ballast water. This is a worrisome pattern we are seeing around the world."

Preventing the next global hitchhiker will require vigilance. Strayer stresses that, "Our $277 million dollar estimate is extremely conservative. Right now there is very little research on impacts to freshwater shipping, recreation, and irrigation, or the costs associated with altered freshwater habitat or for biofoulers other than animals. We fully expect the number to rise."

Recommendations include research into understudied freshwater biofoulers, such as sponges and insects, as well as a better understanding of how biofoulers interact with one another, as it is common for multiple species to coexist. Also highlighted is the need for control methods that are both effective and environmentally sensitive, and additional studies on the ecological impacts of biofouler invasions.

When dealing with established biofoulers, improved management is critical. But prevention is the most effective tool. Nakano writes, "At the end of the day, we need education, regulation, and legislation designed to minimize the unintentional global transport of biofouling species."

###

The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is a private, not-for-profit environmental research and education organization in Millbrook, N.Y. For thirty years, Cary Institute scientists have been investigating the complex interactions that govern the natural world. Their objective findings lead to more effective policy decisions and increased environmental literacy. Focal areas include air and water pollution, climate change, invasive species, and the ecological dimensions of infectious disease.

Lori Quillen | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.caryinstitute.org

Further reports about: activities animals clam clams ecological freshwater insects mussel pipes snail species

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Protecting fisheries from evolutionary change
27.04.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht From waste to resource – how can we turn garbage into gold?
27.04.2016 | DLR Projektträger

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny microbots that can clean up water

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute Stuttgart have developed self-propelled tiny ‘microbots’ that can remove lead or organic pollution from contaminated water.

Working with colleagues in Barcelona and Singapore, Samuel Sánchez’s group used graphene oxide to make their microscale motors, which are able to adsorb lead...

Im Focus: ORNL researchers discover new state of water molecule

Neutron scattering and computational modeling have revealed unique and unexpected behavior of water molecules under extreme confinement that is unmatched by any known gas, liquid or solid states.

In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory describe a new tunneling state of...

Im Focus: Bionic Lightweight Design researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute at Hannover Messe 2016

Honeycomb structures as the basic building block for industrial applications presented using holo pyramid

Researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) will introduce their latest developments in the field of bionic lightweight design at Hannover Messe from 25...

Im Focus: New world record for fullerene-free polymer solar cells

Polymer solar cells can be even cheaper and more reliable thanks to a breakthrough by scientists at Linköping University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). This work is about avoiding costly and unstable fullerenes.

Polymer solar cells can be even cheaper and more reliable thanks to a breakthrough by scientists at Linköping University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin glass is up and coming

As one of the leading R&D partners in the development of surface technologies and organic electronics, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP will be exhibiting its recent achievements in vacuum coating of ultra-thin glass at SVC TechCon 2016 (Booth 846), taking place in Indianapolis / USA from May 9 – 13.

Fraunhofer FEP is an experienced partner for technological developments, known for testing the limits of new materials and for optimization of those materials...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

The “AC21 International Forum 2016” is About to Begin

27.04.2016 | Event News

Soft switching combines efficiency and improved electro-magnetic compatibility

15.04.2016 | Event News

Grid-Supportive Buildings Give Boost to Renewable Energy Integration

12.04.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Winds a quarter the speed of light spotted leaving mysterious binary systems

29.04.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Fiber optic biosensor-integrated microfluidic chip to detect glucose levels

29.04.2016 | Health and Medicine

A cell senses its own curves: New research from the MBL Whitman Center

29.04.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>