Last Updated March 19, 2016 10:38 p.m. EST
Zebra mussels are an invasive species that has been disrupting the Great Lakes ecosystem for many years.
Today the Great Lakes, especially Lake Erie, homes an explosive population of zebra mussels. They are an invasive species, native to Eurasia, and responsible for disrupting ecosystems around the globe.
As a filter feeding species, they eat food particles in the water thus filtering it and removing pollutants as well. However this can also be harmful because sunlight which previously was unable to reach certain areas can help grow macrophytes which damage water quality and taint beaches.
Anna Boegehold is a PhD student at Wayne State University (introduction above). She is currently researching how populations of zebra mussels react to certain kinds of bacteria in hopes of finding more information on zebra mussel population control.
Currently she is testing a type of cynobacteria that slows down reproduction of the zebra mussels. Tracking the sperm swim patterns, the water containing cynobacteria has significantly hindered the sperm movement compared to water with healthy green algae.
“They messed up the entire food web.” said Ms. Boegehold. “They’re veracious consumers, eating lot of healthy green algae which some fish depend on. This problem magnifies as you move up the food web.”
The cost to fight these pests are over $500 million alone on just the Great Lakes, with an estimated $1 billion over the next 10 years. This includes categories like prevention costs, chemical treatments, planning/design/engineering, research/development and filtration efforts.
The zebra mussels have become an environmental epidemic, and their influence needs to be removed. It it no longer a Michigan issue. Significant signs of the species have been spotted southwest into the Mississippi tributaries and as far as the Colorado river.
There are many things you can do to help prevent further spreading as well as protect yourself against these invaders.
- Wear water shoes whenever your in an infested area. The shells of the zebra mussels are sharp and can cut uncovered feet.
- Clean out your boat’s rudders entering another body of water. Zebra mussels and stick to the bottom of passing boats.
- Don’t move water from one area to another. A zebra mussel egg is invisible to the naked eye and can contain thousands of eggs in a relatively small amount of water.
- Economic impacts of zebra mussels on drinking water treatment and electric power generation facilities.