Thursday, April 21, 2011

Invasive Mussels Causing Massive Ecological Changes in Great Lake

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." (read more)