Zebra mussels

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Zebra mussels

scientists call me dreissena polymorpha, but you can call me zebra mussel (Ontario's Invading Species, n.d.)

Zebra Mussels Impact: Zebra mussels are successful in their new environment because they are extremely adaptable to their surroundings (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Many of the lakes and rivers in North America obtain the perfect environment for zebra mussels to thrive in. These lakes and rivers also have large amounts of plankton readily available for the zebra mussels to consume. In short, zebra mussels are successful in their new environment because many of the lakes and rivers in North America are “move-in ready.” Zebra mussels have an enormous impact on the ecosystems that they invade. First, through the filter-feeding activity that all zebra mussels take part in, the amount of food that is available for all of the other aquatic plants and animals is decreased (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). This lack of food affects all trophic levels in the ecosystems that zebra mussels invade. Zebra mussels can filter approximately one liter of water a day, consuming generous amounts of plankton, and leaving none for the other plants and animals (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). As well, large colonies of zebra mussels can cause clearer water by eliminating the plankton that sits or lingers on the top of the water (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Clearer water allows sunlight to enter deeper into the water (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Light sensitive fish, like walleye, are forced into darker, deeper waters because of the increased amount of light penetrating the water (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). An increase of light infiltrating the water can also lead to the growth of aquatic vegetation, including Eurasian watermilfoil, an invasive plant (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Moreover, since zebra mussels steer clear of eating specific types of plankton, an increase of toxic algal blooms often occurs in the waters where zebra mussels are present (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). The increase of these toxins will, consequently, impact the fish and wildlife that live in the same water as zebra mussels (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Furthermore, zebra mussels acquire suspended impurities in their bodies when they filter the water that they live in (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Scientists are worried that the fish and birds that consume zebra mussels may become sick when they eat the zebra mussels and digest the impurities (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Therefore, the secondary consumers that feed on zebra mussels may be negatively affected by the contaminants that the zebra mussels are accumulating. Finally, due to zebra mussels, the native clam populations in Lake St. Claire and Lake Erie have been dwindling (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Zebra mussels are able to attach themselves to these clams and restrict their movement, feeding, and respiration (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Large amounts of zebra mussels may also affect the spawning of shoals of specific fish species, putting the survival of fish eggs at risk (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). In conclusion, zebra mussels impact the ecosystems that they invade in a variety of ways.

Controlling Zebra Mussels: Citizens should contribute to control this invasive species because zebra mussels not only affect the ecosystems that they invade, but they also affect any businesses and recreational activities in the area. Large groups of zebra mussels that congregate on the bottoms of lakes tend to cut swimmers feet because of their sharp shells, making swimming unpleasant in lakes that zebra mussels have invaded (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Also, colonies of zebra mussels that attach themselves to the bottom of boats, buoys, docks, and other equipment make fishing tedious and considerably harder (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Moreover, when zebra mussels stick to the insides of industrial water intake pipes, the flow of water is significantly lowered, and millions of dollars must be spent each year to remove them from the power generating facilities and water treatment plants that they have destroyed (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Therefore, in order to enjoyably continue their daily routines as usual, such as fishing or swimming, citizens should help stop the spread of zebra mussels. To prevent the spread of zebra mussels, boaters and fishers should search their boat, trailer, and equipment each time they take them out of the water (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). They should look for and remove all plants, animals, and mud (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). They should get rid of these unwanted organisms by placing them on dry land or in a garbage (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). As well, the boaters and fishers should drain the water from their boats motor, live well, bilge, and transoms before placing the boat back into the water (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Live bait should always be released on dry land or properly saved until another use (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Releasing live bait from one body of water into another is illegal (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). To remove unseen organisms and microbes from their boats and trailers, boaters should rinse their equipment with hot water (>40˚C), or spray their equipment with water of a high pressure (250 p.s.i), or let their equipment dry in the sun for at least five days (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Any equipment that is hard to clean should be immersed in hot water (>40˚C) for ten minutes (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (O.F.A.H.) is a nonprofit, nongovernment organization that protects and strives to conserve the fish and natural wildlife in Canada’s wilderness (O. F. A. H., 2014). This organization has taken many steps to ensure that their community is aware of the dangers in their environment and has a way to take action against these unwanted nuisances (O. F. A. H., 2014). First, the organization has set up a toll-free telephone number, Invading Species Hotline 1-800-563-7711, and website, www.invadingspecies.com, where people can either report a zebra mussel sighting or obtain more information on zebra mussels (O. F. A. H., 2014). Through the Invading Species Awareness Program that this organization has initiated, the organization has raised public awareness of invading species throughout Ontario and has helped to detect and remove zebra mussels from many lakes and rivers (O. F. A. H., 2014). In 2013, over 31 volunteers participated in the Invading Species Watch Program and helped to monitor over 120 lakes across the province (O. F. A. H., 2014). Through these monitoring sessions, colonies of zebra mussels were removed and communities were well educated on the procedures necessary to ensure that the zebra mussels would not return (O. F. A. H., 2014). The communities that received this education reported an increased amount of plankton of the surface of the water and healthier fish and aquatic wildlife after the volunteers had left (O. F. A. H., 2014). In conclusion, O. F. A. H. is doing some great work to help stop the spread of zebra mussels and educate the public on this invading species. Their work will surely impact the lakes and rivers in Ontario positively in the coming years.

Zebra Mussels

How To Identify Zebra Mussels:Length: 2 - 2.5 cm long maximum 4 cm long Shape: triangular Colour: brown or black shell white or yellow patternscolour patterns may differOther: lies flat on the underside of its shell (Ontario's Invading Species, n.d.)

Lisa Wight

References:Zebra Mussels Ontario's Invading SpeciesO. F. A. H. Black Sea SceneLake Huron

Zebra Mussels Niche:Zebra mussels originated in Eurasia, in the Black Sea region (Ontario's Invading Species, n.d.). This sea has a positive freshwater balance because it receives more freshwater from rainfall and the rivers that flow into it than it loses to evaporation (Black Sea Scene, 2014). Therefore, the small amounts of salt water that may enter the Black Sea are diluted by the large amount of freshwater originally in the sea (Black Sea Scene, 2014). Consequently, zebra mussels thrive in freshwater at a depth of approximately 2 to 7 meters (Lake Huron, 2014). Ice and violently thrashing waves make it hard for zebra mussels to attach themselves to a given surface and survive (Lake Huron, 2014). Zebra mussels are able to thrive in lakes and rivers with a wide range of environmental conditions and temperatures because they easily adapt to their surroundings (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). The ideal temperature for the spawning of zebra mussels is 14˚C to 16˚C, but spawning may last longer in waters that are warm year round (Lake Huron, 2014). The maximum temperature that a zebra mussel could endure is 40˚C (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Any temperature greater than this would cause the zebra mussel to cease to exist (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Zebra mussels play a large, unwanted, role in our ecosystems. One fully-grown zebra mussel can filter one liter of water a day, consuming the many microbes that live in the water as they filter it (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). These microbes, such as phytoplankton, are all considered vegetation (Zebra Mussels, n.d.). Primary consumers only consume producers, grass and other green plants, and because of this, primary consumers are considered herbivores. Therefore, zebra mussels are categorized as primary consumers because they only consume aquatic vegetation.Origin Of Zebra Mussels: Zebra mussels originated in Eurasia, in the Black Sea region (Ontario's Invading Species, n.d.). They are believed to have been transported from Eurasia to North America by the ballast water from transoceanic ships that was released into the freshwater rivers and lakes in North America when the ships had reached their destination (Ontario's Invading Species, n.d.). Zebra mussels were first found in North America in Lake St. Clair, a small body of water connecting Lake Erie to Lake Huron, in 1988 (Lake Huron, 2014). Only two short years later in 1990, zebra mussels had been detected in all of the Great Lakes (Lake Huron, 2014). Zebra mussels were able to travel through the Great Lakes and major river systems in North America quickly because of their ability to attach themselves to boats traveling between these lakes and rivers.

Zebra Mussel Distribution in 1992

Zebra Mussel Distribution in 2001

Zebra Mussel Distribution in 2010

"Silent Invaders" Zebra Mussels 2013


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