Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Invasive mussels causing massive ecological changes in Great Lakes

14.04.2011
The ongoing spread of non-native mussels in the Great Lakes has caused "massive, ecosystem-wide changes" throughout lakes Michigan and Huron, two of the planet's largest freshwater lakes, according to a new University of Michigan-led study.

The blitzkrieg advance of two closely related species of mussels—the zebra and quagga—is stripping the lakes of their life-supporting algae, resulting in a remarkable ecological transformation and threatening the multibillion-dollar U.S. commercial and recreational Great Lakes fisheries.

Previous studies have linked the mussels to far-reaching changes in Lake Michigan's southern basin. Now a paper by two University of Michigan ecologists and a colleague shows that the same dramatic changes are occurring in northern Lake Michigan and throughout Lake Huron, as well.

"These are astounding changes, a tremendous shifting of the very base of the food web in those lakes into a state that has not been seen in the recorded history of the lakes," said Mary Anne Evans, lead author of a paper scheduled for publication in the April 15 edition of the journal Environmental Science & Technology. "We're talking about massive, ecosystem-wide changes."

Evans is a research fellow at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment. The other authors are Donald Scavia, director of U-M's Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, and Gary Fahnenstiel, senior ecologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Because the changes are so profound and are happening so rapidly, the authors recommend that Great Lakes management agencies review and perhaps revise their policies so they can respond more quickly.

"New strategies for managing the lakes are urgently needed. Ecological changes that formerly occurred over decades are now happening in just a few years, so we need to adapt our management policies to this new reality," Scavia said.

This recommendation is especially relevant in the context of the current review of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement by the International Joint Commission, Scavia said. Through the IJC, the United States and Canada jointly manage the Great Lakes.

Though the zebra mussel is better known to the public, over the past decade it has largely been overshadowed by the quagga mussel, which can thrive far from shore in deep, mud-bottomed waters. Each of the fingernail-size quagga mussels filter about a quart of water a day, and billions of them now blanket the bottoms of lakes Michigan and Huron down to depths of nearly 400 feet.

They feed on algae, including single-celled plants called diatoms that are encased in glass-like shells made of silica, which the diatoms extract from lake water. Until recently, the diatoms "bloomed" each spring in the Great Lakes, and the level of silica in upper lake waters dropped as diatoms built their protective shells, then sank to the lake bottom, taking the silica with them.

The drop in silica levels due to the spring diatom bloom, known as the seasonal drawdown, has long been used as an indicator of overall algal production in the Great Lakes.

Reviewing records of silica levels in lakes Michigan and Huron collected over the past 30 years by the Environmental Protection Agency, Evans and her colleagues found that algal production throughout the two lakes was about 80 percent lower in 2008 than it had been in the 1980s.

In Lake Michigan, the decrease in the seasonal drawdown coincided with an explosion in the quagga mussel population and its expansion to greater depths, which began in 2004. The same changes occurred a few years earlier in Lake Huron, where quagga mussels greatly increased in abundance between 2000 and 2003.

"For years, all the talk was about the zebra mussels. And then its close cousin comes in, the little quagga mussel, and wreaks even more havoc on these huge offshore systems," said NOAA's Fahnenstiel.

"These changes are unprecedented," he said. "In terms of algal abundance and water clarity, lakes Michigan and Huron are now similar to Lake Superior."

By filtering out the algae, the mussels are robbing other organisms of the food they need to survive. Of particular concern is the plight of Diporeia, a tiny shrimplike creature that was one of the pillars supporting the base of the Great Lakes food web.

Nearly every fish species in the Great Lakes relies on Diporeia at some point in its life cycle. But Diporiea populations have crashed in lakes Michigan and Huron, and the change is already impacting Great Lakes commercial fisheries and the sport-fishing enterprise.

"The big question now is how large the quagga mussel population will get," Evans said. "And when it gets as big as it can get, will it stay at that level or will it die back because it has decimated its own food supply? We don't really know what to expect at this point."

Jim Erickson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

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: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>