The invasion of the Zebra mussels began in the 1980′s and they were followed by their close relative the Quagga mussel. Zebra mussels tend to inhabit hard substrate while Quagga inhabit both hard and soft substrate. Quagga migrate deeper than Zebra mussels and invade a wider range of aquatic environments. In 2007 Quagga mussels were found in the Colorado River Aqueduct System that serves Southern California. They were also found in the San Vicente Reservoir in San Diego County. In 2008 Zebra mussels were found in San Justo Reservoir. The mussels act as water filters and remove phytoplankton, zooplankton and other small particles that are a source of food for other aquatic animals like zooplankton and small fish, altering the food web. The mussels also collect organic pollutants in their tissues at extreme levels greater than the average concentration in the environment. The waste they produce lowers oxygen levels which lowers the pH to acidic levels and creates toxic byproducts. Quagga and Zebra mussels clog pipelines and screens that take up water and reduces the pumping capacity for power and treatment facilities. For boaters the mussels clog engines and cause overheating and steering problems. It’s almost like the problems caused by the Quagga and Zebra mussel are infinite.
The Zebra and Quagga mussels have the potential to create serious issues in the future, especially for California. The state is already in a water crisis and all reservoirs that get raw water from the Colorado River have been exposed to Quagga mussels. I feel that threats like these should be publicized and given more attention so that everyone can be aware of what can happen. I’ve lived in California my whole life and have never heard of invasive species. Different ways on how people can help with the spread of the mussels should also be advertised. In regards to the environment the food web being altered can starve a lot of the native aquatic species and throw some aquatic environments out of balance. I think this could have a domino effect and cause more problems in society.
I’m still a little unclear about how these mussels are spread and what is the primary pathway by which they are transported to different environments. How do the Zebra and Quagga mussel reproduce? I’m also curious to know what measures are being taken to counter the issues caused by these mussels. I wonder if a species can be introduced into areas where the mussels are a problem and eliminate them without further disrupting aquatic ecosystems. I’m interested to know how these mussels interact with environments in which they are native and can analyzing them in their natural habitat lead to key ways to reducing their effect on habitats they invade.
The Zebra Mussel has already caused economic problems in many of the Great Lakes and more recently has been discovered in Laurel Lake in Massachusetts. They most likely traveled on a boat that came from a body of water that was infested. Environmental officials worry now about the potential for species being wiped out, intake pipes becoming clogged, and the fouling of drinking water. Massachusetts was prepared for the invasion and created a rapid response program in 2005. The program aims to educate local residents, isolate infested areas, and drying and disinfecting boats that are moving to new waterways. They hope to prevent the possibility of an altogether different ecosystem developing where there is infestation.
I personally had heard of the Zebra Mussel when I was back at home. I think public education is one of the most important techniques of prevention. As long as the public is aware of the problem, they can contribute to the process of prevention and if necessary help disinfect the area. I understand that it travels to new areas on boats, but I didn’t find any information on how to get rid of the Zebra Mussels once they have already infected the area. It seems like for now Massachusetts only worries about containing the problem rather than fixing it and I wonder if that is enough or is the wrong decision. I found the article on the Boston Globe website.
(Picture obtained here.)
Zebra Mussels, which are native to Eurasia, more specifically the Balkans, Poland, and the former Soviet Union, were first introduced to North America in 1988 in Lake St. Clair, a small lake between Lakes Huron and Eerie. Since then, they have spread throughout the Great Lakes and various rivers that flow by. The zebra mussels get their name from their striped patterns on their shells, and range from fingernail size to nearly two inches long. On average a female can begin to reproduce when it is two years old and can produce up to a million eggs in a year. Sheer numbers and the fact that they are small allow the mussels to spread very quickly, especially since young zebra mussels are able to swim freely.
However, with so many of these zebra mussels and no natural predator in the area, the mussels out-compete the native species and eat all the food available. Also, as the mussels become older, they attach themselves to hard surfaces, which include boats, other mollusks, turtles, and water-intake pipes. This can clog pipes and kill the other animals. Slowly overtime, some animals have adapted to the increase in these mollusks and have begun to feed the new food source. However, this is not nearly enough to keep the population of zebra mussels in check. Tons of money are spent unclogging pipes and clearing out sharp shells from shores and beaches every year. While the effects of the zebra mussels are devastating, it also increased the number of certain fishes that have begun to feed on the mollusks and underwater plantation, resulting in a large change in the ecosystems. It will be interesting to see if perhaps in the near future, there will be enough predators to keep the zebra mussels to spread.
The first zebra mussel was discovered in the US twenty years ago. Scientists believe it was brought over by a Russian ship due to its tendency to “hitchhike” on the bottoms of boats. According to an article on Boston.com, preventative measures against the spread of zebra mussels began in 2005, but didn’t pose a problem until June 2009. Although Laurel Lake is the only impacted one in Massachusetts, zebra mussels infect the Great lakes as well as other lakes in Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Vermont and other states.
WBZ News expressed concern over the new invaders for not only do they prevent people from swimming because of their sharp bodies, but they can also clog pipes, kill aquatic life, alter the ecosystem and foul water supplies. If they were to get into the pipe systems, the mussels could threaten millions of dollars of infrastructure damage. The fish are put in danger for each mussel can consume up to a gallon of water per day and filter out the zooplankton, a central part to a fish’s diet. Due to mussel’s ability to filter out and clean the water, aquatic plants beneficial to other species may emerge, and therefore drastically changing the ecosystem. Luckily the water supply remains out of danger for Laurel Lake is not the water supply for the region. To prevent the expensive and harmful effects of the invasive species, the government has focused on educating boat owners about properly cleaning boats exiting Laurel Lake.
Despite the continual problem of zebra mussels in Laurel Lake, it seems as if the preventative measures have been successful so far (no other Massachusetts lakes have been infected, only small tributaries surrounding Laurel Lake). Unlike the Eurasian watermilfoil, which can easily be spread simply by the felt on fly fisher’s shoes due to its relatively discreet appearance, the zebra mussels are much more detectable, and therefore are less likely to be transferred to another lake without notice.